The Small Back Room
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Time Out saysPowell made The Small Back Room just after The Red Shoes, and was clearly looking for a 'homely', manageable subject after the lavish ambitions of the earlier film. He found it in Nigel Balchin's novel about a military bomb-disposal wizard, and turned in a thriller that would look like a masterpiece in the filmographies of most British directors. But it rests on a not-very-interesting dramatic idea: a man whose private life is in ruins (he's lost a foot in a bomb blast, is having trouble with his girlfriend, and is becoming alcoholic) gets new drive from the challenge of mastering a new kind of German bomb. And Powell's characteristic desire to ornament leads to the inclusion of some bizarre fantasy footage (when the hero suffers DTs) which simply doesn't belong in this context. It remains extremely tense in a workmanlike way, and full of good visual and syntactic ideas... but it's a fair way short of Powell's best.