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This is far from the best Don Siegel movie. But, despite flaws in
writing and acting, it's gripping and moves along, keeping the viewer
on the edge of his or her seat.
Nothing is really credible. Theresa Wright as an itinerant farmer's wife? Actors with pronounced New York accents as menacing rednecks? And something about the script seems truly sub-par. The dialogue is not grammatical and this is not a matter of simulating regional speech or signifying class. The dialogue is just not well written.
The music, too, is strangely self-contradictory. At first it is pure schmalz, and Don Siegel is not the man for romance, even if it's romantic noir. Then a theramon is introduced and it sounds better.
Despite quibbling on my part, it's an engrossing movie. Believable? Not exactly. But, if one cuts it some considerable slack, it works well as a suspenseful kind-of noir.
MacDonald Carey stars as an Atticus Finch like attorney in Count The
Hours where he's asked to defend George Craven who is accused of
killing an elderly rancher and his wife. From the reactions around the
town the two were beloved in the community and everyone just wants to
hang Craven and be quick about it.
His defense of Craven puts Carey's own relationship with rich girl friend Dolores Moran in jeopardy. And he's certainly not winning any popularity contest defending Craven. Still Carey soldiers on until the truth emerges.
Don Siegel got some beautiful performances from several of his cast members. First Teresa Wright as Craven's wife who is the picture of innocence. Her innocence makes you the audience as well as Carey believe in the rightness of the cause. Also Adele Mara poaches on what is usually Gloria Grahame territory. She plays a real low life white trash slut and she does it magnificently.
Finally though there's Jack Elam who was a former hand at the deceased's place and he's a former mental patient. That blind eye of Elam's served him so well in films he could play some really loony characters. Elam is at his bug-eyed best in this part.
It's sad that Don Siegel did not have a bigger budget to work with. As it is Count The Hours is a real noir classic and Carey's Dave Madison belongs right up there with Atticus Finch in the pantheon of film's incorruptible men of the law.
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
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
MacDonald Carey stars as a public defender taking on the case of a migrant farm worker accused of killing his employer in this unusual RKO production. Directed stylishly by Don Siegel and marvelously photographed by the great John Alton, whose penchant for deep, angular shots is on display throughout, Count the Hours has plenty of the ingredients you'd expect a noir classic to feature. Sadly, it's let down by a drab screenplay by Karen Dewolf and a dull, Lon Chaney Jr.-style performance by John Craven as the falsely accused handy man. The film also suffers from a Louis Forbes score that features an overdone theremin theme whenever the real villain appears on the screen. Count the Hours looks great and also features good performances by Teresa Wright (in a role that seems tailor made for Patricia Neal) and Jack Elam, but on balance, it remains a frustrating though watchable failure.
The great director who would make " invasion of the body snatchers"
"the killers" "the beguiled" and even Elvis' best ("flaming star") is
already present;his flair for film noir and for disturbing atmosphere
is glaring in the scene in which the diver tries to rape T. Wright:the
way Siegel films his eyes is absolutely terrifying ;ditto for the
scenes when the lawyer looks for the former employee;oddly Siegel does
not seem to very interested in T.Wright's character and the last scenes
are given over to Dolores Moran and Adele Mara,who are relatively
obscured thespians compared to the star of "shadow a doubt" and Wyler's
However,the movie is absorbing and a must for suspense buffs.
Like this ?try these
"phantom lady" (Robert Siodmak,1944)
"time without pity" (Joseph Losey ,1956)
"they won't forget " (Mervyn LeRoy,1937)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A minor noir classic. Superbly photographed with some good performances and an unusual score by Louis Forbes featuring excessive use of a haunting Theramin and a wonderful dream-like sequence in the courtroom where he uses a repeated piano motif in a modern, almost ambient style. Watch out for the continuity error at the end. The accused, Max Vern (Jack Elam), returns to his home in a fit of rage. Notice that he is walking towards a lone house (in long shot) which looks strangely familiar. Why it's the same house that he (the killer) is seen walking towards in the very first shot of the movie where the farmer and his housekeeper are killed! Confusing huh? Director Don Siegel may have been trying to make a subliminal point here but I guess the truth is that due to budget restrictions he liked the location so much he used it twice.
MacDonald Carey and Teresa Wright, both of whom starred in Hitchcock's
Shadow of a Doubt, work together again in a less prestigious film,
"Count the Hours" from 1953, directed by Don Siegel.
Wright is Ellen Braden, whose husband George (John Craven), a migrant worker, is arrested for the murder of an elderly man and his housekeeper that was done apparently during a robbery - the man kept a lot of money in his house. When asked if he has a gun, he at first says no. His wife runs home and throws the gun in the lake, but she's seen doing it. By then he's admitted to having one. He's believed to be guilty.
Carey plays attorney Doug Madison, who is asked to take the case but refuses. After speaking with Mrs. Braden, he changes his mind. He's convinced that they have to find the gun. But when they do, it's a disappointment. Doug believes in George's innocence, which means they have to find the killer.
Pretty good mystery-suspense film which also features Jack Elam. Wright is sympathetic as the pregnant Ellen who believes in her husband, but John Craven doesn't register much.
Carey was an affable leading man who found his great success on Days of Our Lives. He had a wonderful speaking voice and a gentle presence. Elam is his usual evil-looking and sleazy self.
On the ordinary side but tense nonetheless.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Budget restrictions, my tailbone.
For those who kinda like the plot detail, minus "noirsh" reviews: The midnight murder of a rancher and his wife leaves circumstantial evidence pointing the finger of guilt toward a married couple, George Braden (John Craven) and his wife Ellen (Teresa Wright), 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 (Macdonald Carey), 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 (Jack Elam.) With the help of the latter's greedy girl friend, Gracie Sanger (Adela Mara), 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. A precursor to things to come in the judicial system? (Gee, the experts missed this major connection to future Don Siegel films.) After the governor rejects Doug's pleas for an appeal for George, the townspeople turn against him, and his fiancée, Paula Mitchener (Dolores Moran), misconstrues his association with Ellen and breaks their engagement. And, having spent all his own money in an effort to achieve justice for George, and with his practice (job?) gone, Doug prepares to leave town.
Then something happens that makes his day.
Although described as film noir, this average crime movie lacks the
biting dialogue, intriguing plot development and menacing atmosphere of
more acclaimed and competent films in this category.
The plot has been outlined well enough in other reviews here and evaluation of performances are referred to. But really, this is very much a B grade movie with neither plot or characterisation memorable in any positive way.
But the musical score, especially when the murder suspect (Jack Elam) is being chased at night by law authorities is as way over the top as any musical score you will ever hear. Ludicrously resembling the cry of a banshee or demented psychopath superimposed on the actual musical score, the movie is well worth viewing just for the laughs this music will engender. Really remarkable!!
The movie's an okay crime drama, but nothing more. There's some
suspense near the end as lawyer Madison (Carey) gives exoneration one
more try before his client Braden is executed. That manages some
dramatic tension. Still, the opening hook may be the movie's best
sequence as the mysterious intruder ends up shooting two old people
while rifling a desk for money. It's effectively done in creepy shadow.
The story's remainder, however, fails to rise above standard melodrama.
Fans of Wright will be disappointed, since her role is relatively small and overshadowed by two Monroe-like blondes. Speaking of blondes, Mara does a good imitation of Daisy Mae from Dogpatch, a backwoods caricature instead of a performance. I wish director Siegel had stepped in to prevent the disruptive effect. Of course, Elam's wild-eyed presence remains a big draw for many of us, and he doesn't disappoint. Get a load of his pants and shirt that look like rag-bin rejects. What a great character actor he was, and to think he was an A-grade studio accountant before turning thespian. Hard to figure him in a suit and tie after seeing his disheveled nut-case here.
Anyway, the movie was apparently shot in just nine days, which may account for its general lack of consistency, given the presence of virtuosos like Siegel and Alton. Had the movie been made several years earlier, I expect RKO would have come up with a noir. As things stand, however, the results are an adequate time passer but nothing more.
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