Count the Hours (1953)
Macdonald and the Farmer Murder
"Count the Hours" or "Every Minute Counts" as it is sometimes known will be a familiar movie to many, by that I mean that you may not have seen it before but once it starts it takes on a familiar tone and sequence. The reason being is that we have a murder, an accused man and an attorney doing his best to prove him innocent believing that he confessed to the murder under duress. Whilst to my knowledge "Count the Hours" is not based upon a true story it has that sort of feel about it as things play out in a reasonably predictable manner. But what stands out about this is that the movie was shot in just 9 days by director Don Siegel and whilst its short running length and some slim scenes make it feel like a movie made quickly there are scenes which feel greater than the movie itself.
Following the murder of a farmer and his housekeeper, farm workers George (John Craven) and Ellen Braden (Teresa Wright - Shadow of a Doubt) are arrested on suspicion of murder and seeing that his pregnant wife is not cable to cope with the fierce police questioning George signs a confession to save her. Reluctant attorney Doug Madison (Macdonald Carey) doesn't want to defend George especially with the local residents angered of the murder of one of their own but seeing how desperate Ellen is to clear her husband agrees, throwing himself into finding the proof. Despite losing the case Doug doesn't give up and finds Max Verne (Jack Elam - The Battle at Apache Pass) who confesses to the murder but Dist. Atty. Jim Gillespie (Edgar Barrier) is not about to be publicly humiliated by having the conviction of George Braden over turned.
As already mentioned "Count the Hours" was filmed in just 9 days and to be honest it feels like it especially with a running time of just 76 minutes. Being short isn't a criticism because padding it out with scenes to make it nearer 90 minutes would have spoilt the pacing which is actually one of the best things about the movie. But at the same time the limitations of time and I would guess money show up in various areas where scenes could have been fleshed out to make them have greater impact especially when George agrees to confess because he hears Ellen in tears as the police question her, twisting the facts to make her feel guilty.
What this means is that "Count the Hours" feels like a movie made from a first draft of a story, a series of ideas and scenes which needed more work. And these ideas and scenes are familiar because for all the individual things such as former farm worker Max being angry to Ellen throwing he husbands gun into a pond it plays out pretty much as you expect. In a sense it is a bog standard little thriller which sees Doug come close to clearing George a couple of times and just when time is running out and George faces execution something miraculous happens. It is again the fact that it needed more fleshing out to make it feel more original but it does still end up entertaining.
Part of why it does still entertain is the casting and both Teresa Wright and Macdonald Carey impress as Ellen and Doug as does Jack Elam as Max Verne. But the real reason why it works and probably the main reason why you would go out of your way to watch is that it is a Don Siegel movie. What Siegel does is actually quite brilliant because he paces the movie perfectly and in between a lot of usual looking scenes he throws in a few really great ones, using lighting and close ups to really create an impact especially when we see Max questioned by the police.
What this all boils down to is that "Count the Hours" is a familiar movie because it is just your typical crime story with an innocent man in prison and an attorney trying to clear his name. It's nothing more than average but thanks to director Don Siegel it is entertaining with some very impressive scenes which lift what for most is ordinary.
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