Small Back Room, The

1614. THE SMALL BACK ROOM (1948-England). With david farrar, kathleen byron, jack hawkins, leslie banks, Robert morley. Directed and scripted by Michael powell and emeric pressburger. The powerhouse team Of Powell and Pressburger wrote, produced and directed some Of the most artful and intelligent films to come out Of England between 1942 and 1956. This is certainly one Of them, an engrossing and pointed drama made at the middle Of their collaboration. The time is 1943, the setting is London, and the hero is Sammy Rice, a government munitions expert who’s hampered by an artificial foot. This affliction leaves him in constant pain, which he takes drugs to ease. Perhaps it’s only the patience and understanding Of his girlfriend, Sue, that keeps him sane. The Germans have been dropping deadly booby traps over the country. They may be disguised as toys, because children have been finding them, playing with them-and are being killed. While the story line culminates in an extended tension-packed sequence, the film is mostly a character study. Rice is a bitter, tormented man who desperately needs to be more assertive and less self-pitying; he doesn’t realize that his contribution lo the war effort can be as vital as that Of any foot soldier. Supporting are some top-notch British actors, notably Jack Hawking and Robert Morley. The former plays Farrar’s a colleague, who’s more concerned with selling himself and building his reputation than in winning the war; the latter, whose appearance is unbilled-in the closing credits, he’s listed only as “a guest”-is brilliant in his brief scene as a prissy government minister. 97 minutes. Drama