Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Count the Hours (1953) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

COUNT THE HOURS (1953) is a crime drama directed by Don Siegel. It was just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

COUNT THE HOURS was released three years before one of Siegel's most famous films, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956). It's also particularly notable inasmuch as it reunites Teresa Wright and Macdonald Carey, who had costarred in Hitchcock's classic SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943) a decade earlier.

Wright plays Ellen, the pregnant wife of George Braden (John Craven). The Bradens are itinerant farm workers whose latest employer has just been murdered. After the couple is interrogated for many hours, the innocent George confesses in order to spare Ellen and their unborn child.

Attorney Doug Madison (Carey) takes George's case, thinking he's going to assist him to plead guilty. Doug ends up convinced of Braden's innocence and tries to help clear his name. It's not easy, given the lynch mob mentality in the local community; even the D.A. (Edgar Barrier), who should be more concerned with justice than winning, sometimes doesn't seem to care whether or not he's convicting an innocent man.

I only found this film so-so, but it has elements which make it worthwhile, starting with Wright and Carey as appealing lead performers. I did wish Wright didn't have to spend so much of the film playing a single note, as the distraught wife, but that's what the part required. Carey is quite likeable as the initially skeptical attorney who ends up so dedicated to his clients that he spends the night at the hospital when Ellen's baby is born.

There's also a terrific performance by Adele Mara as a poor, trashy girl who receives gifts from the real killer (Jack Elam in one of his trademark scary psycho roles). I've always liked Mara, and this was a very different role for her which she knocks out of the park. Additionally, Dolores Moran (TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT) is striking as Carey's fiancee.

Another factor which makes the film worthwhile is that it was filmed in black and white by the great John Alton. He makes terrific use of shadows in a number of scenes; in contrast, the courtroom and forensic lab scenes are shot in a starkly flat docudrama style.

Overall this 75-minute film is fairly well-paced, but the characters and story don't register as strongly as they should. The viewer has the sense that the script by Doane Hoag and Karen DeWolf needed some fleshing out. The film has the underpinnings of a good story, but ideally it would have been told in a richer, less perfunctory fashion.

The DVD is a good print. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, this sounds good. As you say, nice to see Teresa and MacDonald reunited. Still, Teresa should have been a bigger star in the 50s.

11:14 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Wright was never a big box office star but was well thought of. She walked way from her Goldwyn contract, and in her words, only proved that "I would work for ten percent of my former salary." Career management matters, and she went from one of the best production outfits, to a series of modest projects.

7:31 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Always enjoy her. It's interesting she also did a movie with SHADOW OF A DOUBT's Joseph Cotten the year before this, I need to catch that one (THE STEEL TRAP).

Best wishes,

9:21 PM  

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