The midnight murder of a rancher and his wife leaves circumstantial evidence pointing the finger of guilt toward a married couple, George Braden and his wife Ellen, who live and work on the ranch. George confesses to the killings in order to free his wife from hours of grilling by the police. Despite the best efforts of his defense attorney, Doug Madison , George gets the death penalty. Sunsequent events and his sympathy for Ellen convince Doug that George is innocent but he must find the real murderer to prove it. His man-hunt leads to a former hired hand, Max Verne. With the help of the latter's greedy girl friend, Gracie Sanger, Max is found and admits to the killings. But when a hearing is held, a psychiatrist pronounces him unsound of mind but harmless and the judge sets him free. After the governor rejects Doug's pleas for an appeal for George, the townspeople turn against him, and his fiancée, Paula Mitchener), misconstrues his association with Ellen and breaks their engagement... Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Count the Hours (AKA: Every Minute Counts) is directed by Don Siegel and written by Karen DeWolf and Doane R. Hoag. It stars Macdonald Carey, Teresa Wright, John Craven, Jack Elam, Dolores Moran, Adele Mara and Edgar Barrier. Music is by Louis Forbes and cinematography by John Alton.
When a farmer and his housekeeper are murdered, suspicion falls on the hired hand George Braden (Craven). Owning a gun that matches the bullets used in the killings, Braden and his wife Ellen (Wright) are taken in for questioning when Ellen panics and is seen to throw the weapon into a lake. Under pressure and wanting to free his wife from duress, Braden confesses to the crime and finds himself on trial for his life. Enter Doug Maddison (Carey), a local lawyer who comes to believe that Braden is innocent and faces a fight against the clock to save Braden from the hangman's noose.
The pairing of Don Siegel and John Alton alerts the noir crowd to this compact low budget race against the clock thriller. In truth it's standard fare on a plot basis, with a mixed bag of acting performances (Elam and Wright exempt) and poor use of the Theramin in the musical score (it telegraphs what we should expect and feels on this occasion it's in the wrong movie), but within simplicity of story also comes potent points of worth.
As the clock ticks down and the stakes are raised, Siegel and the writers slot in the distasteful workings of the human being. Not only is there the running theme of the law quite frankly being an ass, but there is the bite of the rumour mill, a man forcing himself on to a desperate woman (Siegel zooms in for an emphasised facial shot that is bone chilling) and psychiatry playing a judicial hand; and not a good one at that!
Then there is Alton bringing his photographic tricks to compliment Siegel's efforts to lift a standard screenplay to greater things. Angular shots feature but it's with shadows and light that Alton excels, none more so than with the prison sequences. Here is where a frantic Braden is being held and it is a caged hell, because Alton highlights the shadows from the bars on the doors and windows as well, there is no escape from bars, they literally are all around, with one shot showing Alton at his best.
It's little seen and most likely forgotten about, and certainly its qualities have been ignored by the none film noir loving crowd, yet this is well worth a peek for those film lovers who like trawling the back alleyways for Siegel and Alton peccadilloes. 7.5/10
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