Monday, November 10, 2014

Movie of the Week – The Small Black Room

This week’s movie: The Small Black Room (1949)

During WWII, the Germans developed an explosive booby-trap that they began dropping over England. In 1943, the army decides to bring in an expert, Sammy Rice, to help them find one and disarm it. Rice, however, has his own problems as well. He is in a constant struggle with his department’s overseers about the quality of weapons being developed. He also is in a terrific battle against his own worse nature (his internal drive to drink to dull the unrelenting pain caused by his prosthetic foot).

The film is yet another WWII drama from British auteurs the Archers (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger). They work with their frequent collaborators composer Brian Easdale, cinematographer Christopher Challis and production designer Hein Heckroth.

The film stars David Farrar and Kathleen Byron, and features support from Jack Hawkins, Leslie Banks and Michael Gough.

It is interesting watching The Small Black Room for fans of Powell & Pressburger’s work – seeing David Farr and Kathleen Byron playing two people intimately involved after their interaction in Black Narcissus. The Small Black Room is often regarded as a lesser work of the Archers, probably because it does not have the same following as their Technicolor films; however, it is an excellent character drama/thriller. The Archers build tension in many ways throughout the film. It is almost too much to take, making the film a bit difficult to watch, due to its emotional effectiveness. There is also a great artistic flare to the film, as its black & white photography and production design perfectly capture Sammy Rice’s inner demons at play. Personally, I think this is a must-see for fans of the Archers and good WWII dramas.

Trailer: Here
Available on: DVD

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