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Scum More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Cold-hearted and hard watching

Author: pippa_12 from United Kingdom
5 January 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Harrowing, cold-hearted and engrossing are just a few words to describe the 1979 film Scum, directed by Alan Clarke and written by Roy Minton. It shows the apparent brutality within a 1970's British borstal, including hard watching scenes of violence, racism, suicide and most notoriously rape. The film follows the experiences of Ray Winstone's character, "4737, Carlin" and other inmates; as they struggle for justice among themselves and from the crooked wardens.

The film starts with three young men in a police vehicle: Angel, Davis, and Carlin, being driven to a borstal. Scum does not reveal the convictions of these three men, but emphasises more upon the borstal environment. In 1902, borstals were introduced for young male offenders to protect them from the influence of older offenders. They were designed to be religious and educational, with a focus upon military routine, discipline and authority. As shown throughout the film, there was a strong belief on the use of corporal punishment as an effective way to suppress delinquent behaviour. Scum portrayed life within borstals as a continual conflict between the inmates and wardens ("screws") through scenes of violence, racism, suicide and rape. Inmates would fight among each other in order to gain hierarchy power, with the top status as "The Daddy". Wardens would take full advantage of their authority, often beating inmates and turning a blind eye to incidents involving "The Daddy", as he was deemed to have leadership qualities. Scum leads viewers to see the matron as a mother figure for inmates, during group discussion sessions, but similar to the wardens; she does not show any compassion or sympathy towards them. Inmates were unable to speak up about the continual abuse, for being known as a "grass" doesn't bode well within this environment. The harsh reality was that the film Scum actually showed incidents that frequently occurred within borstals; yet highlights the ineffective borstal system. In 1982, shortly after Scum was released, borstals were abolished and instead Young Offender Institutions were introduced.

Scum showed the effects of continual corporal punishment on inmates. Most notably when the inmates hear of the suicide of Davis following a rape attack; Carlin, now known as "the daddy", prompts a riot and in the final scenes is seen bloody and unconscious after a thorough beating from the wardens. If these are similar to reality of borstals, then it would show corporal punishment as effective only for short term means; but may increase delinquent behaviour and subsequently lead to re-offending.

This therefore leads to the widespread view of whether the current justice system is too "soft" on criminals. Many of the public have a consensus agreement that harsher and corporal punishment should be brought back; this view has especially been raised due to the recent London riots. Current Youth Offender Institutions have a different take on criminal punishment and is based on restorative justice principles. It focuses more upon offenders taking responsibility for their wrong doings through various means; for example education to ensure offenders fully understand the consequences of crime. Young offenders are examined individually, rather than in groups as Scum portrayed with the matron. This has shown to be much more effective upon re-offending rates, as it accommodates more to the individual needs.

From Scum, it is clear to see how the youth offending system has changed. CCTV cameras are now implemented in modern day institutions, so inmates can not abuse each other and vice versa with the wardens. The current approach has been improved on and seen to be better in reducing re-offending rates. It hasn't completely ruled out crime and re-offending; which is a possible reason as to why the public see this approach as too 'soft' for criminals. So, may be a balance between restorative justice principles and corporal punishment will be more beneficial. Scum also highlights violence, sexual and racial abuse; violence and sexual abuse has been reduced, but sadly, racism is still a big part in today's society.

Scum brings to light the corruptive justice system in the 70's. The film depicts the harsh reality of borstals from the director's perception; it highlights the extreme rivalry within the inmate hierarchy and wardens taking full advantage of their position. From watching this film we learn that juveniles within a borstal do not take responsibility for their actions and due to the disturbing environment, inmates are led to commit more crimes; as seen through Carlin using violence as a tool for self-protection. Therefore, bringing back the borstals would bring no benefit for the justice system, in fact may make it worse and lead to higher re-offending rates. Scum is still seen as very controversial and valuable, however, the graphics are deemed as out-dated so a remake of the film may be more enticing for viewers.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Gritty Look Inside A British Youth Correctional Facility....

Author: EVOL666 from St. John's Abortion Clinic
6 June 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SCUM, originally commissioned by the BBC and then later banned after it's contents were considered to "rough", is a harsh look into the lives of a group of youths being held at a British borstal (juvenile correctional facility). Violence and submission are the rules that the youths live by, and although cliché - it's often true that in situations and environments such as these, it's "survival of the fittest"...

Carlin is the "new-guy" at this particular borstal, having been transferred after being accused of assaulting a guard. Carlin is hassled by the current "Daddy" (self-appointed "toughest" kid on the wing and "leader") Pongo, who wants to make it clear that although Carlin may have been the Daddy where he was, it ain't gonna be the same here. Carlin initially goes into the borstal with his mind set on doing his time and getting out - but after receiving a vicious beating from Pongo and his boys, Carlin resorts back to the behaviors that he "knows", and decides to retaliate. Meanwhile, we also meet other of the borstal residents, including the brainy and mischievous Archer, and several other of the boys. Inside the facility, we witness the daily violence, humiliation, and despair that the boys face at the hands of the brutal "screws" (adult guards) and each other.

SCUM is a harsh and realistic look at the life that these kids live while in the "correctional facility" system. Not that these kids should necessarily be "pitied" - as many are locked up for violent and serious crimes - but it also makes the point that countering violence with more violence and degradation doesn't really work either. Some will find SCUM a little too much - as the audience is witness to brutal beatings, suicide of two of the young "residents" and a brutal gang rape - but those that can appreciate strong, "in your face" films, this will probably be appealing. Think American ME meets KIDS (but made in 1979). The performances from all of the kids and guards are VERY strong and are worth mentioning as well and really carry the film. My only complaint is that SCUM tends to go in several different directions at once, so when we first meet Carlin, the film seems to focus on him, but then goes off to focus on another resident for long stretches, and then back to Carlin - giving the film a somewhat disjointed quality. Even so - SCUM is a powerful film and definitely worth checking out...9/10

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Tremendous experience. WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS!!!

Author: templer_doom (
5 October 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The one thing that one remembers from SCUM is that there is no music throughout. It is the key factor and effect that the lack of music makes the film a more real experience. Pulling no punches with violence and brutality, SCUM is a potent blueprint for the destiny of some elements of society.

The late Allan Clarke originally filmed this for TV, but was banned from screening, so a film version was commissioned and released to great success in UK cinemas alongside the likes of QUADROPHENIA in 1979.

This is not a comfy view of prison and the penal system in the way PORRIDGE was on British TV, merely an honest forthright account of the fate that befalls a group of troubled and troublesome youths. Rank is formed, kids are beaten up and silenced, one or two lose faith and one kills himself after a sexual experience. It all points to the climactic riot in the Borstal cafe and a no-win situation for either side.

Thoughtful, albeit brutal.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Excellent film.

Author: Big Daddy Long Stroke from London, England.
30 August 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have seen this film a couple of times in the last 15 years. I was only 3 when it first came and I remember looking at the VHS cover in my local rental shop a few years after. My dad always told me that I was too little to see it. Fast forward a few years and a guy at my school was passing a copy around so obviously I asked to borrow it. After seeing it for the first time I've watched every time it comes on tv.


Every one has already gone on about the amount of English actors that are today household names who made their debut in scum. Also a lot of people say that the most shocking scenes are the pool balls in the sock, the toilet beating, and the infamous rape scene. I however found that the last scene with the four guys being dragged bloody and semi conscience down a corridor to their cells was sickening and is the one scene that really stays with me. I think that it just showed that you cant beat the system!!

Excellent film, if you havent seen it yet, and your from england, fix up and find a copy just to see what all the fuss is about.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

I had to return my tool to the hardware shop.

Author: SusanAdebisi from West Mids - Inglaterra
3 December 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After bouncing his rivals head off a particularly unfriendly ceramic sink big, lumbering Ray Winstone's Carlin' Is the Papa now.

Years ago the authorities saw fit to send delinquents to places like this, those not seriously troubled upon arrival certainly would be come time to leave - If they got to leave. Not long In the tone Is set with the top boy drawing his own conclusions of Carlin' - mainly all over his face, but Winstone's character Is not to be tested. Within 25 mins he's running the block ascending the wings brutal hierarchy In no time, not only a a hazard for his fellow porridge consumers but a big problem for those In charge.

It looks dated 35 or so years on but really that adds to the bear pit mentality of nastiness and base human behaviour. Give this a revisionist re-make with gleaming white teeth and tidied up language It just wouldn't work. The point Is treat people like dirt and what do you expect In return?

Hard arsed condemnation of routine borstal life, a million miles away from the Lock Stock... tarted up violence played for laughs(I'd love to see Guy Ritchie In one of these places) The Idea of the Institution being the problem Is hard to Ignore which makes It all the more menacing, the screws/hacks are In a position of complete power despite their deviant ways. Like those old propaganda bits the government used to bang on about - the system's right - without question. Even when It couldn't be further away - and there's bugger all you can do about It.

I remember seeing this on a Tuesday on C4 years ago, about 2 In the morning and the sheer visceral experience sticks with you. Scum doesn't even consider pulling a punch, It lamps you with a crude kosh. The two suicides are horrible, just In the Imagination. The way that black kid Is told about the death of his partner made me wince and I defy anyone to even mumble as the silence of the credits roll. After the old nonce In charge patronises them and asks them to pay respect to the kid who'd just been burglarised then took his life In a most terrible way.

Scum Is Infinitely quotable ie:- "Where's your *expletive* tool?", "what *expletive tool?", "this *expletive tool you *ethnically diverse Individual*".

It Is a reminder of how the Scum of today get It easy with their play-stations and rec. time but also how to breed the problem people of tomorrow- Watch this film.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The Greatest British Film Of All Time

Author: ChainsawDaveandMisterShoop
20 May 2003

Strange to think this low budget tale of a young offenders institution should be the best movie made in Britain since Hitchcock left for Hollywood. Equally amusing and disturbing this film really does have it all. It works as both great entertainment, and as a terrifying and realistic portrayal of British society. The first half is action and occasional comedy. Watching this film with your friends will give you so many catchphrases and quotes that soon enough you will know the dialogue of the whole film by heart. When the horror of the final twenty minutes kicks in though, it can be too much to watch, the overall feeling after viewing can be overwhelming in both good and bad ways.

An adrenaline rush of the highest order, essential viewing

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The definition of hard-hitting

Author: Leofwine_draca from United Kingdom
28 November 2015

SCUM isn't an easy watch. It's the filmed version of a BBC TV movie that ended up being banned by the lily-livered broadcasters for being simply too dark and violent. I've not seen the BBC version, but I can't imagine it being better than this hard-hitting, yes, classic, of a movie.

It features a star-making turn from Ray Winstone as a newcomer to a violent borstal where constant threat comes from both staff and fellow inmates alike. Winstone's character is tough to love - he's as racist as the rest - but he commands respect and exudes a powerful presence, particularly in such classic scenes as the one involving a couple of pool balls.

The story is constantly gritty, downbeat, and depressing. Suicide, rape, self-harm, and bullying are all constant themes. Thank goodness for Mick Ford's Archer, an intellectual inmate who brings some much-needed levity to the production. Watch out for numerous future stars in the cast, including a truly evil Phil Daniels well cast against type, P. H. Moriarty (from THE LONG GOOD Friday) and the likes of Patrick Murray (Mickey Pearce from ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES) and Danny John-Jules in more minor parts. SCUM is as powerful a condemnation of the British borstal system as it gets.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Can the system be beaten?

Author: Rozzi1 from United Kingdom
16 September 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The inspiration for the Canadian film "Dog Pound", it was made in 1977 as a television drama but was promptly banned due to its content – two years later director Alan Clarke re-made the film for cinema. In my opinion the cinema film "Scum" (1979) is far superior to the 1977 original. The vast majority of the cast are the same, and except for several scenes, the reduction of several sub-plots (such as the character Rhodes, who appears in the 1979 version but is never named), and for the opening sequence, the story and characters are otherwise the same.

The story follows the journey of three inmates in a Borstal (a young offenders prison). Carlin, the principal character, has been transferred from another Borstal for allegedly assaulting an officer. Davis has been transferred from a more relaxed Borstal for attempting to escape, and Angel has arrived fresh from being on remand at Wormwood Scrubs (a prison in West London).

The borstal is controlled by a harsh, unyielding discipline meted out by the unrelenting cruelty of the officers – who randomly beat and brutalise the young inmates – and by the viciousness and savagery of the inmate 'Daddy' cliques who run the underbelly of each cell-block.

With his reputation of being a rebel against authority and a fighter preceding him, Carlin is singled out and soon has no option but to fight the 'daddies' and use his cunning to outwit the officers intent on victimising him. When Carlin emerges as the new 'Daddy' of his cell-block, the bullying suffered by Davis and the racial attacks suffered by Angel subside. As their journeys continue, alongside the journeys of several other inmates picked-up as the story progresses (such as Archer, Toyne, Meekin), the narrative focuses on the conflict between the individual and the system; how the identities of the inmates become eroded – how some adapt in order to survive the system and how others capitulate. "Scum" is an extremely violent and disturbing film which displays a no-holds barred sense of brutality and realism. Climaxing with a full-scale riot as the inmates explode and rise up against the oppression of the regime, the final question posed is whether or not the system can be beaten.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Cons & Screws

Author: Michael Radny from Perth, Australia
7 August 2015

Unbelievable! Scum is one of those films that will rarely be watched but should be watched by all. It has that nature of being provocative, whilst being entertaining and informative. Scum tells the tale of so many institutionalized boys during the 60' and 70's who were so unfairly punished and treated by the authority figures that it makes the viewer so enraged that you just hope for a just ending.

One of the great 'never-heard-of-films'. Scum makes you think and believe that one of the most torturous punishments and corruption cannot be true. Whilst this may be a microcosm for society, it is undoubtedly a simile for prison and others of the likes. One great film indeed.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

You'll be scared to go into the greenhouse.

Author: BA_Harrison from Hampshire, England
4 June 2015

Had the Borstal system not been abolished in 1982, Alan Clarke's controversial drama Scum could have been used as a potent form of crime deterrence, the film's gritty, documentary-like approach being so harrowing that any potentially delinquent viewers would surely think twice about flouting the law for fear of finding themselves banged up in a concrete hellhole with a bunch of sociopathic thugs. If shown as part of the school curriculum, teenage crime figures would surely have dropped quicker than Davis's pants in the film's notorious greenhouse rape scene.

Being buggered while potting plants is just one of the many dangers that face the young inmates of Scum's tough correctional facility. Even hard-nut Carlin (Ray Winstone) feels the pain, receiving a thorough beating from both his fellow cons AND the screws, before eventually establishing himself as 'the daddy'—the top dog amongst the prisoners—by cracking a few select skulls (his methods including the classic 'snooker balls in the sock' trick). Tensions run high when one of the inmates commits suicide after the death of his wife, but when Davis (Julian Firth), seriously depressed after his assault, slashes his wrists during the night, anger and resentment boil over, resulting in rioting.

Chock full of strong language, extreme brutality, and unflinching scenes of racism, suicide and rape, Scum is still extremely shocking stuff, even by today's standards, but is far from exploitative: director Clarke simply tells it like it is, showing us the harsh reality of life behind the walls of the UK's borstals, where every day is a lesson in survival. His film benefits greatly from memorable performances from the excellent cast, both young and old, and a genuine atmosphere of hopelessness. Don't expect an uplifting ending: this ain't no Shawshank Redemption.

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