List Film

The Small Back Room (5 stars)

The Small Back Room

(PG) 104min

This 1949 Powell and Pressburger collaboration has, historically, been overshadowed by the better known and far grander productions by the great director-writer team. Certainly, in comparison with the awesome Technicolor fantasies that immediately preceded it – A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes – this black and white noirish thriller-romance set largely in Blitz-era London looks decidedly modest. It might be kitchen sink drama: a bomb disposal expert (David Farrar) tries to manage his team of Whitehall back-room boffins, solve the mystery of a lethal new German bomb and romance a colleague (Kathleen Byron), but his attempts are hamstrung by self-destructive bitterness spiralling from being emasculated since having his foot blown off. However, the spot-on portrait of warts-an-all Englishness, gritty evocation of the wartime milieu and the fierce love affair at its heart (not to mention at least two outstanding set pieces) really makes the film soar. Quietly, it’s P&P’s most compelling picture. No extras.

(Optimum DVD retail)


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