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Remind Me

Count the Hours

This sixth feature film from Don Siegel was made well before the maverick American director could claim the artistic freedom he would enjoy while making Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) but nonetheless reveals themes that would characterize such signature Siegel work as Death of a Gunfighter (1969), Dirty Harry (1971), and Charley Varrick (1973). A midnight home invasion turned double homicide shocks the residents of a tight-knit farming community, resulting in the arrest of an itinerant worker (John Craven) who is put on the fast track to Death Row. When the defendant's pregnant wife (Teresa Wright) importunes a local defense attorney (MacDonald Carey, reuniting with Wright a decade after Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt) to help prove her husband's innocence, the town rises up in protest, with gossip, scandal, and self-interest diverting the true path of justice. Shot by ace cinematographer John Alton, the shadowy murder scene that opens the film anticipates Richard Brooks' 1966 film adaptation of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, the chronicle of a ghastly 1959 multiple murder in Holcomb, Kansas, that was here six years in the future. Though made on the cheap, and in only nine days, Count the Hours manages to dazzle with bravura setpieces, most memorably the exciting pursuit of a suspect (Jack Elam) through darkened woods that recalls Alton's film noir classics (He Walked by Night, Border Incident) while looking ahead to Siegel's later crime classics.

By Richard Harland Smith

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