The Small Back Room (1952)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Small Back Room Photos

Movie Info

In 1948, "The Archers" -- the writing and directing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger -- had completed The Red Shoes, one of their greatest international successes, but it had yet to be released when the Rank Organization, doubting the commercial appeal of the picture, severed ties with the team and Powell and Pressburger signed a new deal with Alexander Korda's London Films. Their first project for Korda, The Small Back Room, was a dramatic change of pace, a thriller set in London in the midst of World War II. Sammy Rice (David Farrar) is explosives expert who works with British military intelligence as part of a ragtag munitions research team studying new ways to defuse enemy weapons and improve allied arms. While he's brilliant on the job, Rice is a troubled man with an artificial leg that causes him chronic pain and an appetite for alcohol that stands between him and those around him, especially his girlfriend and secretary Susan (Kathleen Byron). Rice's latest project is finding a way to defuse a new German bomb that's cleverly disguised as a children's toy, but Rice finds himself battling his superiors when Waring (Jack Hawkins), an unscrupulous businessman who has been pressed into service with the explosives team, and his colleague Professor Mair (Milton Rosmer) begin lobbying the Army to purchase a new weapon that Rice feels is both ineffective and dangerous. Despite excellent reviews and a fine cast that includes Cyril Cusack, Sidney James and Robert Morley in a cameo appearance, The Small Back Room was a box office disappointment on its original release, and it appeared in edited form in the United States under the title Hour of Glory, though later video releases allowed Americans to see the film in its original British cut.
Action & Adventure , Art House & International , Classics , Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Snader Productions


Bryan Forbes
as Dying Gunner
Geoffrey Keen
as Pinker
Michael Gough
as Stuart
Robert Morley
as The Minister
Henry Caine
as Sgt. Major Rose
Jack Hawkins
as R.B. Waring
Cyril Cusack
as Corporal Taylor
Michael Powell
as Gunnery Officer
David Farrar
as Sammy Rice
Leslie Banks
as Colonel A.K. Holland
Sidney James
as Barman
Anthony Bushell
as Col. Strang
Milton Rosmer
as Prof. Mair
Sam Kydd
as Crowhurst
Roddy Hughes
as Welsh doctor
June Elvin
as Gillian
James Dale
as Brigadier
Renée Ashershon
as ATS Corporal
James Carney
as Sgt. Graves
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Critic Reviews for The Small Back Room

All Critics (5)

The Small Back Room is too good to be regarded as the curio that most currently see it as.

Full Review… | August 8, 2009

Through the Archers' gaze we watch closely, but are never let in.

Full Review… | August 28, 2008

One of the period's most piercing, emotionally anguished romances.

Full Review… | August 15, 2008
Slant Magazine

... its uncanny storytelling is ever so eloquent.

Full Review… | August 16, 2006
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Quote not available.

June 15, 2005

Audience Reviews for The Small Back Room


While the Archers are known best for their larger-than-life, Technicolor fantasies, "The Small Back Room" serves, in many ways, as almost an antithesis to their most recognizable aesthetic traits--it's in black and white rather than Technicolor, claustrophobically internal rather than external, with even a title that betrays a different kind of a film, and a 17-minute climactic sequence (coming right on the heels of the central ballet in "The Red Shoes") that's nothing more than a man, a beach, and a bomb. Still, though this is a darker, quieter, more somber and sardonic piece of work than usual for the Archers, "The Small Back Room" stands alongside Powell and Pressburger's many great works as an anguished psychological wartime drama conceived and executed with characteristic cinematic passion and panache and performed to perfection by an impeccable cast.

Davey Morrison Dillard
Davey Morrison Dillard

Yeah, not up to their finest but still fascinating-- especially the WWII atmosphere. That shot with the hats over the lunch tables was delicious P&P! So many great little touches like that. Nerdily pleased to see so much Gill Sans on the posters around the office. Note that the two musical sequences feature a theremin.

Jean Filkins
Jean Filkins

[font=Century Gothic][color=seagreen]"The Small Back Room" is about the problems and work of a weapons researcher in London in the spring of 1943. While battling alcohol because of a crippling injury, he is investigating booby trapped bombs that the Germans are dropping all over England and advising on a new gun. The movie is lacking slightly in plot, but it makes up for it in characterisation, performances and beautiful camerawork. The film's climax and a hallucinatory sequence are definite highlights. I also liked that it is a movie about wartime that is just as much about saving lives and finding a reason to live, as much as anything else.[/color][/font] [font=Century Gothic][color=#2e8b57][/color][/font] [font=Century Gothic][color=#2e8b57]"The Small Back Room" is written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. They would also collaborate on other interesting movies of the period including "The Red Shoes", "Stairway to Heaven/A Matter of Life and Death", "I Know Where I'm Going" and "Black Narcissus."[/color][/font]

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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