Scum (1979) Poster

(1979)

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Spot On!!
rfsavio21 September 2006
As a resident of the United States who has worked in this country's "enlightened" prison systems, both juvenile and adult, I must say that the depiction of life in the boy's school is as realistic as it can be.

Prisons do not work. So called "reformation" is basically limited to repetitious mind numbing labor that is, for the most part, useful to the institution since they often sub-contract inmates work in the "industries" section to outside firms, mostly government related.

There is nothing about SCUM that I saw as exaggerated or unrealistic. The institutions I have worked at were filled with under educated guards who enjoyed their so-called authority over their charges. Many were in collusion with the "powerful" inmates and often victimized the weaker inmates by celling them with people who were seeking a "wife". This was done by the guards in order to pacify the violent inmates and help maintain calm in the cell block.

But, as to this film, I can only say that it is realistic, brutal and direct but then so is prison. No one is sent to prison to change or reform, they are sent there to be punished and the internal workings of the system are far more brutal than anything a court will dispense.

One line from the film that encapsulates the entire process of "penology" is uttered by the character named Archer when he tells the guard he is talking with that it has been his observation that more crimes are committed against the inmates than they have collectively committed against society. THAT should have been the advert tag line for this excellent and most enjoyable video.

The character DAVIS just epitomized the suffering of every slight, passive inmate in any prison or jail in any part of the world. His sense of desolation after he was raped by the thugs in the greenhouse spoke volumes about the sadistic and ignorant nature of both the inmates that perpetrated this act and the cowardly "guard" who witnessed it and did nothing.

Knowing that as I write these words, there are many DAVIS types in prisons everywhere gives one cause to reflect on the very nature of so-called humanity.

WATCH THIS FILM!!
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Brutal Prison Story
RobertF8718 April 2004
This is probably one of the most notorious films to have emerged from Britain. It's become almost a cult film now with it's mixture of brutal violence and memorable quotes ("I'm the Daddy now!")

"Scum" was originally produced for the British television in 1977 (as part of the BBC's "Play for Today" series) but the TV version was banned, so writer Roy Minton and director Alan Clarke re-made it as a cinema film. The film takes place entirely inside a British "Borstal" (a prison for young criminals) and details the experiences of three new inmates, notably the violent Carlin (memorably played by Ray Winstone in his first starring role), who soon rises to the position of "Daddy" (or "top dog") in the institution.

The frequent violence (dealt out by both inmates and guards) is brutal and uncompromising, there are a couple of graphic suicides and, in the most notorious scene in the film, a horrifying rape.

This is a very powerful film that has not lost it's power to shock. Worth watching but only if you've got strong nerves and a strong stomach.

By the way the Borstal system was abolished in Britain in the early 1980s and is replaced by the current "Young Offender's Institutions".
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8/10
Gripping and shocking
Melton Mowbray2 October 2003
I'd had the opportunity to watch Scum a long time before I actually did, and I was always turned off it by the very sensationalist box and taglines. I've never been a fan of "The film they tried to ban" and similar phrases being used as advertisement for a film, so when I sat down to watch the film today I was very surprised.

It doesn't need phrases like that to advertise it - it's bleak and horrific, and should be advertised as a serious drama rather than some kind of exciting gore-fest. As well as being powerful and thought provoking, it's gripping too, and you won't feel bored when watching it. Although there is a lot of stuff crammed in there, and some scenes are very prolonged, at just over and hour and a half it's the perfect length to achieve what it sets out to do. This is one film you won't be bored watching.

I'm actually surprised that this film doesn't have more of a recognition or following nowadays, and isn't seen in the last light as Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" and Lindsay Anderson's "If...".
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8/10
On consent and violence
paul2001sw-127 October 2004
In Britain circa 1980, there was a lot of hope placed by the new Conservative government in the recipe of the "short sharp shock" as the ideal way to deal with young offenders. This faith, of course, reflected a dream that the problems of society can be addressed through the fair application of discipline (and the illusion that discipline can ever be applied fairly). In the real world, prisons don't work. However much non-prisoners may be afraid of them, once inside, most become institutionalised and accustomed to their environments; of course they act as schools for crime; and treating people like animals is hardly likely to turn them into civilised humans. Perhaps worst of all is the fact that all power rests on a mixture of violence and consent, and the power of the prison officers is thus crucially dependent on their forming an alliance with the nastiest, most violent of prisoners. Welcome to the world of 'Scum'!.

The late Alan Clarke had a reputation for making television dramas of searing intensity. This background is apparent in 'Scum', which is directed in a flat, no-nonsense style. But it rings with horrific truth in a way that other prison dramas (like 'The Shawshank Redemption') do not: there's no redemption here, only the brutality of a nightmare world where everything civil has been lost. One typical detail is the recreation the officers arrange for the prisoners: basically just an organised fight, to release their energy and aggression in controlled circumstances. Clarke also had a reputation for discovering talent, and a young Ray Winstone made his name here, playing a "Daddy" only slightly less nasty than his predecessor. The sense of reality means the rape scene is still powerful, even in an age where such material is routinely handled much more explicitly.

'Scum' is powerful stuff, and a voice on behalf of the young and powerless (who continue to commit suicide in Britain's jails at an alarming rate). It also makes one think about the very nature of power (the way of governor remains personally "civilised", while presiding over his brutal staff, is truly telling). Recommended.
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9/10
Mecca, Archer?
philkessell11 June 2005
The grandaddy of 'incarceration' films - this is one of the best, oft copied but never bettered.

I liked it because it's so damn British. The one liners are legion; you all know what they are and where, but among a stellar list 'Mecca, Archer' rises just above and never fails to have me in fits. The way Goodyear looks at the Governor just after this great outburst is also revealing; as is the look of satisfaction on Archer's face when he finally succeeds in riling the 'religious maniac'.

Of course, there's a serious message in here; expedited best in the conversation between Archer and Mr Duke over 'coffee'. Analysing the situation, as Archer attempts to do, will simply not be tolerated and is interpreted as dissent by a man who embodies the 'system' and is intellectually and emotionally unequipped to deal with his own, and the State's ultimate failure to deliver.

Like true class acts, this film works on several levels; it's a no nonsense drama bedecked with Taj Mahal one liners everyone loves, yet it also works on a deeper level; you cannot punitively 'correct' all offenders with violence and cruelty. You are not corrected, you are merely broken, as Davis and Toyne are. If you're not broken, you run amok, but the point is you're not 'cured'.

When this film was on TV in 1983, just after Channel Four started broadcasting, they edited the notorious potting shed sequence to such an extent that the heinous act committed was virtually excised, thereby diluting the dramatic effect to virtually zero. Interestingly enough, they also edited out the bit where Mr Greaves ignores Davis' second press of the bell. Why? Presumably because they feared the ire of the State at the highlighting of its inadequacies? I suppose they can be forgiven, Channel Four was new then after all, but it's quite revealing nonetheless.

If I'm home alone, I quote this film as I'm wandering around the house. I don't quite know why. It's all about the importance of individuality, standing up for yourself and not just 'accepting' things. That's probably the reason. Now, where's your tool?
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difficult to watch, but worth seeing once
didi-525 November 2004
I've now seen this movie several times, although admittedly watching it can hardly be classed as a 'pleasure'. Alan Clarke made this feature after his TV play from two years earlier was banned, and perhaps had more freedom here to explore the issues.

Carlin (an early, showy appearance from Ray Winstone) is sent to Borstal where he quickly establishes himself as a tough boy with a regime of strength. Typical Winstone performance in many ways. In the prison with him are his shadow Richards (played by Phil Daniels); cynical, bare-footed Archer (Mick Ford, these days more often seen the other side of the law in such dramas as 'Silent Witness'); black inmate Angel (Davidson Knight); and quiet Davis, the boy who gets picked on for being a loner (a quite staggering performance from Julian Firth, who never really lived up to this early promise).

Scum is uncompromising - violent (there's a rape which leaves little to the imagination, a suicide, several fights); scathing in its condemnation of the 'system' (which thankfully is not like this now) - and yet finds time for character development and convincing plot. Without any music it is purely presented in documentary style, matter-of-fact 'this is how it is'.

Not a fun movie, but one which tries to make a point, and, if nothing else, has the power to shock and make you remember certain sections for a long time after viewing. Recommended.
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8/10
"You mardy ass little toe-rag. You touch that bell again for no f*cking reason, I'll have you down the block before your feet touch the ground." Brilliant, harsh drama.
Paul Andrews9 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Scum starts as three new inmates arrive at British borstal for young offenders, Carlin (Ray Winstone), Davis (Julian Firth) & Angel (Alrick Riley) are all introduced to Mr. Sands (John Judd) the brutal senior officer who runs A wing. The three new inmates quickly discover life at the borstal is brutal & unforgiving, Carlin is known as a hard-case & Pongo Banks (John Blundell) the current 'daddy' on A wing fears competition so beats Carlin up. Carlin decides to take over Banks operation & with the aid of some snooker balls in a sock 'convinces' Banks & his cronies that he's the new daddy on A wing. However the inmates have as much to fear from corrupt & uncaring screws as they do each other...

This British production was directed by Alan Clarke & one has to say once you have seen Scum it'll probably stay with you forever. Originally commissioned by the BBC for their Play for Today series in 1977 they refused to broadcast it, this is the TV version referred to in the IMDb's 'Alternate Versions' section. Writer Roy Minton & director Clarke then went & re-shot it (Archer for instance is played by a different actor in both versions) for a theatrical release which is far more violent & has much more profanity in it. I have never seen the original BBC version but it is available on The Alan Clarke Collection as is the theatrical cut as well which is the one I am basing my comment on. Scum is a very harsh & brutal look inside a British borstal for young men during the late 70's, it is unflinching in it's detail & depiction of cruelty, corruption & is utterly damning of a system which was wholly inadequate & didn't work. It's a brilliantly written film, the character's are superb & you really feel for them as people, the dialogue takes no prisoners with lots of swearing & racist insults (jungle bunny, coon, black barst*rd etc.) that may offend some of the more politically correct members of the audience. In fact the whole of Scum will probably offend the PC brigade. The film presents the borstal as an institution run by violence & fear, both the inmates & prison officers are seen to be guilty of perpetuating the circle of sadism, violence & corruption in a system that is abused by everyone for their own ends. Scum is just a brilliantly compelling, absorbing, shocking & wonderfully written film that tells it like it was & pulls no punches & doesn't try to fool the audience with any sort of Hollywood romanticised 'happy ending' where everyone happily walks away.

The one thing I must say at this point is that I am positive the way borstal is represented here is no longer the case in reality, in that sense you could almost call Scum a period film at this point in time although it was very much contemporary at the time it was made (these days young offenders in Britain are more likely to have Playstations in their cells). The lack of any sort of soundtrack adds to the gritty realism, the borstal is a cold & bland looking place just like it should be. The violence is extreme at certain points, from a very harrowing scene in which a boy attempts to commit suicide to Carlin using snooker balls in a sock to knock someone out to a very unpleasant & graphic sequence showing a boy gang raped. Scum is not an easy ride, it's not a pleasant film to watch although it doesn't set out to pleasant & nor should it. It's scenes of violence are shocking but they have a purpose & are effective in helping to tell a shocking yet always compelling story.

Technically Scum is basic but the harsh simple gritty documentary look of it helps immensely, both to make it difficult to watch & keep it very much grounded in reality. The acting is superb from a fantastic cast, everyone here is just utterly convincing, chillingly so at times in fact.

Scum (the theatrical cut anyway) is a brilliant film & it's as simple & straight forward as that. It's definitely not a film for everyone that's for sure but if you want to watch a challenging film that will stay in your memory for a long time then Scum is it.
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8/10
Easily One Of The Finest Studies Of Conformity I Have Ever Seen. A Blistering, Unseen Social-Commentary and An Attack On A Unbelievably Flawed System
Det_McNulty15 May 2007
Alan Clarke first released Scum in 1977 as a BBC TV-film, yet the BBC disapproved of the film due to the amount of raw, harrowing realism which had been packed into a short running-time. Therefore the BBC banned the version, and it was not until fifteen years later that the TV-version was aired on the UK's Channel 4. Though, to get around not being able to release the TV version of Scum Alan Clarke opted in for developing a remade, feature-length version to be aired at cinemas, this was released in 1979. The film sent shockwaves through cinemas across Britain, causing huge controversy from the media, government and British public. Some people saw the film as a "visceral image of a flawed system", while others saw the film as "exploitive trash in the form of a documentary".

Scum is a disturbing look at a British Borstal's futile attempt at rehabilitating young offenders, the inmates of the Borstal range from adolescent teen to young adult. Most of them (if not all) have little hope in achieving anything in their life, except for just moving from prison to prison for their antisocial crimes. The film focuses of on brutality of a flawed and corrupt system whereby the inmates have no hope of rehabilitation due to the infantile regimes. The film shows how survival through brutality is the only way of getting through the system and even then there is still no sign of release for any of the prisoners. Thankfully in today's Britain, Borstals are inexistent, since they were (as is quite apparent in Scum) deemed unfit for people, due to the despicable infliction of violence and vicious corruption.

Scum is undoubtedly a film which will prompt viewers to question to entire rehabilitation process used for society's undesirables. Scum makes you wonder whether it is morally incorrect for even the most disgusting of individuals to get such vile treatment. As the brutal treatment is only prompting the individual to become even more sadistic and inhumane. The film details what men will do to "comply" with a system they loathe and how they will form their own rules and beliefs to suit the system in a way which will benefit them. There is a strong element of wasted talent etched into the film, this is in the respect of intelligent men who have potential, yet do not know how to use it. Scum takes you inside a world where young men have been reduced to their most primitive form; a place where violence breeds violence and respect is shown through class and power, rather than morals. I beg of you to think about what Scum is attempting to say and question through its subtext.

The performances from the entire cast are pulled off with raw, natural intensity. Ray Winstone's debut performance as –nicknamed "the daddy"- Carlin is one of the most unflinching and uncompromising performances I have ever seen. It is a performance which bursts with adolescent rage and masochism. He is a boy who has been demoralised by the life he has grown up in. It is distressing to see a man of complex capabilities be destroyed by his primitive brutality, which has been forced upon him by the human instinct of survival.

The technical prowess of Scum helps to create and delve inside the bland, grim and unpleasant environment of the Borstal. Making the film feel even more genuine in its atmosphere through its documentary style editing and camera techniques, the use of long-haul, close-ups and tracking-shots add to the film's aggressive ingenuity. In some of the more violent scenes of the film the camera is held for longer takes, which helps to provoke more emotional power. The camera feels somewhat intrusive, this is because of how Alan Clarke is achieving to shed light on a conformity situation people were afraid to question and examine, yet Alan Clarke is unadulterated when it comes to presenting realism and so tries to make his film-making as tight as possible. There is no use of score either, nor any form of music to accompany scenes, making scenes feel all the more haunting and prolonged.

Scum is an engrossing, convincing and complex example of British film-making at the top of its game. It is a story you will never forget, and remains a film which contains scenes that once viewed will be etched into the depths of your mind. Scum should be compulsory viewing for everyone as it remains a highly affective film of searing emotional intensity.
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10/10
Bloody Powerful
mulhollandman8 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw this when I was 13 years old and I stayed up late one night when my parents went out, only to regret it the next morning. Never before was I so shocked at what unfolded before my very eyes that night. Most people who want to be film makers often cite the films that made them want to get into film making. This film on the other nearly put me off. Not because it was bad, but because it was so heart achingly good. I remember the greenhouse scene wondering what was going to happen and then the full extent of what was happening hit me in the face with a sledge hammer. I felt physically sick and I turned off the television and went to bed but I could not sleep. I did not see the ending until I was 19. The only reason I watched it was because I wanted to see what happened after this, did Carlin deal with these sadistic bullies in the same manner he dealt with Banks and Stripey Richards. No something else happened that was more powerful than any screen beating could ever do. The trainees put up an united front against the establishment. I now regret not watching this film straight through to the end when I was 13.

I have also wrote another comment on the 1977 TV Version. I love the film version therefore I have awarded it 10 out of 10. If I had seen the TV version first I probably would have cited that as my favourite but it that was not to be. The film version holds the vital ingredients that the original lacked in certain cases and that was a lack of strong supporting actors. The first actor being Alan Igbon as Meakin. What a fantastic actor. I love his work to bits. He is brilliant in Boys from the Blackstuff but in Scum he shines through as one of the most important ingredients that the story has to offer. Also there is the wonderful Mick Ford who makes the legend that is Acher. He possesses the smile, posh voice and the intelligent cheekiness that David Threfal could not provide. Again I will take my hat of to Ray Winstone who is certainly one of Britain's best actors. His Carlin is nothing but a complete legend. This time around you can feel that he has gained more acting experience whether it be on stage or television and he has applied this knowledge to the character of Carlin. There is nothing in his performance that you can fault. The rest of the cast are also excellent especially in the area of providing humorous moments which I might add are much needed in the this film.

Definitely an under rated classic that should be compulsory viewing in schools throughout the world.
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Truly disturbing
Jamie-863 October 1999
Be warned that you should go into this film with your guard up. By the time the final scene has faded quietly out, you will probably be in a state of shock.

The film details life in a Borstal institution and the violence and racial hatred that runs rampant through both the prisoners and their wardens. There is nothing cheery here at all and that is precisely the point. Director Alan Clarke deliberately films with a documentary style and it is this realism that makes the film so shattering. Scenes of sexual and racial abuse are placed in front of the camera and no raw nerve is spared the touch of the film.

It should be shown to youngsters as a reason not to turn to crime.
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