Powell & Pressburger






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        The Small Back Room (1949)
        D V D


        We are based in South London near Croydon, UK, and if preferred this item can be picked up by appointment. Just e-mail here. I also welcome the old fashioned cheque and po as it is cheaper to process and all orders are sent off same day as cheque received.


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      • The body of work that the film directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger left us from the 1940s has to go down as the most important and visionary in the history of British cinema. The Small Back Room came at the tail end and on first look seems a modest or minor black & white piece when you consider it came on the back of such techicolour extravaganzas as Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes.

        That would be unfair and though not without its flaws (the surreal sequence just doesn't work and the shadow of a boom mic can be spotted during the scene where the character of Sammy Rice trashes his sitting room which for perfectionists like Powell & Pressburger is pretty astonishing) it is still vintage Powell & Pressburger.


          This is rare British noir, dark, gritty and in Kathleen Bryon's character a hint of a woman longing to be dominated which in 1940s British cinema is almost unheard of


        For my part, anything with Kathleen Byron in it is worth viewing. In her prime in the 1940s she was a kind of British equivalent of Greta Garbo and you just can't take your eyes off her unusual beauty. So sad that when she passed away in 2009 she wasn't more widely remembered.



        small back room movie dvd

            WHISKY SURREAL - DAVID FARRAR
            The Small Back Room, 1949

            © StudioCanal


      • For some reason I suppose to do with distribution rights this is one of those films that has been difficult to get in the past in the UK both on video and Dvd. Because of this stupidity the price skyrocketed and I have seen copies of the video go for £50 plus. Finally, in 2009 Optimum released it and the price has settled down though with StudioCanal holding the rights (I think) problems with licensing could arise again and the title could disappear so I would strongly recommend getting it sooner rather than later.

        It's a crazy situation that a sole film studio doesn't own the rights to all their work. If it did then The Small Back Room would never have suffered from not appearing on our shelves. Colonel Blimp has always been available for example as has The Red Shoes. This was their first film after leaving Rank and the Rank films are now owned by Itv and readily available. Some 60 years after the release we are still suffering from that decision.


      • After the sumptuous theatrics of Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger returned to the muted naturalism of their earlier collaborations for this adaptation of Nigel Balchin's novel about scientists feeling the strain in wartime.

        They started shooting the film early in 1948. They shot the location scenes first, in Dorset, where they did the brilliant bomb-defusing sequence climax. It was a long and difficult sequence, most of it shot at about 5 am in early March with a biting east wind coming in off the sea. And the artificial foot the lead star, David Farrar, wore to play the part of Sammy Rice was so uncomfortable that he couldn't help limping anyway.

        The climax aside, Powell & Pressburger were obviously uninspired by the lengthy passages of chat in which the backroom boffins bicker about their latest inventions, but their masterful use of camera angles and cutting gives the finale an unbearable tension and almost makes up for the length of time it takes to get there.

        Other strong points in the movie is the beautifully enigmatic presence of Kathleen Byron though her character is somewhat underdeveloped and the sulliness of David Farrar. Lordy, he was one actor who the description of 'impenetrable' could be applied and was as cold as stone.

        Perhaps the weakest point of the film is the surreal sequence in which the complex Sammy seeks solace with a giant whisky bottle. Surrealistic scenes have always been notoriously difficult when placed in the confines of a 'straight' story and this one is no exception. It adds nothing to our understanding of Sammy.

        Watch out for an exquisite cameo from Renee Asherson.


        small back room movie dvd



      • From the legendary filmmaking duo Powell and Pressburger (A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, THE RED SHOES), THE SMALL BLACK ROOM is the story of the troubled love affair between a tormented back room scientist and a beautiful secretary, told against a background of ministerial intrigue and empire building.

        Sammy Rice [David Farrar] was the armies finest bomb disposal officer until he was injured in the war and left with a false foot. Now part of a specialist ‘back room’ team, he dismantles the booby-trapped devices being dropped by Nazi bombers. He falls in love with Susan [Kathleen Byron], a colleague, and the two begin a secret affair. However, embittered by life, he feels inferior; inferior as a lover, inferior as a man unable to wear uniform; inferior in his work for, although a brilliant scientist, he allows himself to be exploited by his power-hungry boss. Haunted by his past, he drowns his sorrows in whiskey.

        Sammy’s life is descending into disarray when the news comes; a bomb has exploded with catastrophic consequences, and another has been found. Faced with the biggest challenge of his career, Sammy must face his demons and take his own life in his hands to solve the mystery of the bomb’s lethal mechanism.


        “A movie ahead of its time“
        Channel 4 Film


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        Gallery
        I M A G E S



        small back room movie dvd

            DAVID FARRAR
            The Small Back Room, 1949

            © StudioCanal



        small back room movie dvd

            KATHLEEN BYRON & DAVID FARRAR
            The Small Back Room, 1949

            © StudioCanal



        small back room movie dvd

            DAVID FARRAR
            The Small Back Room, 1949

            © StudioCanal


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      • Price: £15.99
        UK Sterling (new) (includes UK postage & packaging)

        To reserve this item please e-mail by clicking here and include country ordering from. I will then get back to you within 24 hours with availability, price including postage and methods of payment (paypal, cheque, which is preferred, po etc.).


      • Also available: amazon.co.uk


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