In 1948, "The Archers" -- the writing and directing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger -- had completed The Red Shoes, one of their greatest international successes, but it had yet to be released when the Rank Organization, doubting the commercial appeal of the picture, severed ties with the team and Powell and Pressburger signed a new deal with Alexander Korda's London Films. Their first project for Korda, The Small Back Room, was a dramatic change of pace, a thriller set in London in the midst of World War II. Sammy Rice (David Farrar) is explosives expert who works with British military intelligence as part of a ragtag munitions research team studying new ways to defuse enemy weapons and improve allied arms. While he's brilliant on the job, Rice is a troubled man with an artificial leg that causes him chronic pain and an appetite for alcohol that stands between him and those around him, especially his girlfriend and secretary Susan (Kathleen Byron). Rice's latest project is finding a way to defuse a new German bomb that's cleverly disguised as a children's toy, but Rice finds himself battling his superiors when Waring (Jack Hawkins), an unscrupulous businessman who has been pressed into service with the explosives team, and his colleague Professor Mair (Milton Rosmer) begin lobbying the Army to purchase a new weapon that Rice feels is both ineffective and dangerous. Despite excellent reviews and a fine cast that includes Cyril Cusack, Sidney James and Robert Morley in a cameo appearance, The Small Back Room was a box office disappointment on its original release, and it appeared in edited form in the United States under the title Hour of Glory, though later video releases allowed Americans to see the film in its original British cut.
by Mark Deming synopsis