Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger • 1949 • United Kingdom
Starring David Farrar, Kathleen Byron, Jack Hawkins
After the lavish Technicolor spectacle of THE RED SHOES, British filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger retreated into the inward, shadowy recesses of this moody, crackling character study. Based on the acclaimed novel by Nigel Balchin, THE SMALL BACK ROOM details the professional and personal travails of troubled, alcoholic research scientist and military bomb-disposal expert Sammy Rice (David Farrar), who, while struggling with a complex relationship with secretary girlfriend Susan (Kathleen Byron), is hired by the government to advise on a dangerous new German weapon. Deftly mixing suspense and romance, THE SMALL BACK ROOM is an atmospheric, post–World War II gem.
THE SMALL BACK ROOM’s cinematographer, Chris Challis, worked on several Powell and Pressburger films, including THE RED SHOES (1948, as camera operator), THE ELUSIVE PIMPERNEL (1950), and THE TALES OF HOFFMAN (1951). In this video interview, recorded in England in 2008, Challis recalls THE SMALL ...
The following audio excerpts are taken from Michael Powell’s original dictation recordings for the second volume of his autobiography, “Million Dollar Movie,” published in 1992. Here he reminisces about making THE SMALL BACK ROOM.