Shadow of a Doubt (1943) stars Teresa Wright and Macdonald Carey are reunited a decade later in the thriller Count the Hours (1953), now available on DVD from Warner Archive.
When an intruder murders a farmer and his housekeeper, his handyman George Braden (John Craven) is wrongfully accused of the crime. Anxious to protect his pregnant wife Ellen (Teresa Wright) from the strain of interrogation, Braden confesses to the crime, only to revert to the truth when lawyer Doug Madison (MacDonald Carey), considers taking his case. The sympathetic attorney's decision to defend the man angers the townspeople, who are certain of his guilt, and threatens Madison's way of life.
What follows is a familiar story: a wrongfully incarcerated man frets in jail while the woman who loves him tries to save him, helped by a man who is at first skeptical of the innocence of the accused. A film with a plot that well worn needs something to distinguish it, and here it is the cinematography and a heart wrenching performance by Wright that make it more intriguing.
Wright is vulnerable, but steely as a wife desperate to save the father of her child. She speaks passionately in defense of her husband, and the power of her belief shines in loving close-ups which lend her a gentle dignity. It is that memory of her essential self-belief that makes her moments of despair so devastating. Wright shows Ellen crumbling into despair, looking like a lonely child and she makes you feel her hopelessness.
Director of photography John Alton (He Walked by Night, Raw Deal) heightens the tension with his trademark gloomy, but shimmery film noir style. With lighting and angles, he makes a man attempting rape look like a looming monster in a horror flick. In a courtroom scene, a close-up is arranged in such a way that you are suddenly looking at a character with greater clarity. These moments, and a generally shadowy atmosphere, lend a fairly routine film excitement, amping up emotions and lending the production an artistry that goes beyond the routine script.
MacDonald Carey seems looser than usual in this part, even managing a bit of light comedy in a scene where he flirtatiously tries to get information from a suspect's girlfriend who responds to flattery. Craven doesn't particularly distinguish himself in his role as the husband, but he doesn't have much to work with, and he fits the part well. Adele Mara has a completely unnecessary and thankless role as Braden's fiancée, while Dolores Moran steals scenes as an opportunistic country girl with her eyes on the sweet life.
Though it doesn't build up enough momentum to be a truly high-tension thriller, Count the Hours has enough starpower and style to make it worth the watch, and is especially recommended to fans of Alton and Wright.
Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. This is a Manufacture on Demand (MOD) DVD. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.