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Not Truly Representative

Author: mike-1703 from Hull
10 April 2016

I found myself in Deerbolt Borstal, Barnard Castle in 1978. I had fought with a man in the summer of 1977 who later was convicted of sexual offences against children. I had fought in self defence but the Judge ruled that I had used too much force than was necessary. I was sentenced to six months to two years Borstal Training. I initially found myself in Leeds Armley Prison which was one hell of a culture shock. Within a week I witnessed my 17 year old cell mate being beaten up by a number of Young Offenders (aged over 21).

After a fortnight, I was transferred to Strangeways, Manchester for an assessment of where I should spend my Borstal Training. After three weeks I was shipped out to HM Deerbolt. Although the regime was harsh, I only ever encountered two occasions of brutality from two prison officers. I was NOT a good Trainee as I was angry and felt that I had been wrongly convicted and I was awaiting my appeal against the sentence and conviction. My conviction for assault stood me in good stead as most prisoners left me well alone, and I made much use of this psychological perception. I seemed to have a bit of respect from Trainees and Screws; which I believe was due to my rebellious ways. Being reasonably articulate and left wing active seemed to be a bit of a bonus as bullies left me well alone. I hated the loss of my liberty but I know this may sound really odd, but I sort of enjoyed the experience. There was a lot to do in terms of activities. Football, Murder ball, Basket Ball, Running, and the Gym really helped my fitness levels. I worked in the kitchen as a cook and won a lot of respect. Astonishingly, I only served 8 months of my sentence despite my occasional anti establishment behaviour. In summary, I would be lying if I said Deerbolt was just like the film Scum. Most of the screws were decent people and treated me quite fairly, apart from my House Master who was a great believer in discipline. The Doctor there was not a very nice man and he turned out to be the subject of a Documentary on abuse against prison patients. I was very bitter about my conviction as I really felt I was defending myself. But in hindsight, I did go a little too far. But then again, I have no regrets about kicking a paedophile.

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Strong exposé of the British prison system for young offenders

7/10
Author: msroz from United States
19 March 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Scum" (1979) is a prison movie that strongly exposes the failings of the British prison system for young offenders. It reminds me of "The Mayor of Hell" (1933) and to some extent "I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang" (1932). "Scum" doesn't pull any punches in showing the evils of the system.

The story focuses on a few inmates, especially "Carlin" (Ray Winstone) and "Archer" (Mick Ford). Carlin is a newcomer who finds that the administration is using one of the inmates as the top dog enforcer or "daddy". After he's beaten up, he abandons any idea of keeping his nose clean and serving his time. Instead he plots to become top dog himself. Archer has learned to cope with the system and maintain his spirit in an entirely different way, which is to act a bit crazy but also use some of its rules against itself. The male prison personnel are uniformly arbitrary, dictatorial, bossy, sadistic and brutal when they can get away with it. They look the other way as long as the reigning daddy keeps order.

In the last part of the movie, the focus shifts away from Carlin and toward some of the other inmates. It is almost obligatory in prison movies that there be a riot, and this occurs here too. It doesn't lead to any systematic changes.

Punishment is the order of the day and the basis of the penal system in most countries. State administration by state employees or by contractors is the method used to impose the punishments. The fact that movies in 1932 (and earlier) and movies in 1979 (and later) keep showing the same evils tells us that the same systems with the same roots will continue to provide incentives for the same abuses. The movie offers no solution. Neither did earlier movies.

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Ray Winstone Is Still The "F****** Daddy!"

10/10
Author: IanPhillips from United Kingdom
5 July 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

'Scum' (1979) may now be over 30 years old, but its power, notoriety and shock factor certainly hasn't dwindled! Nor has its wide spread appeal. Films like 'Scum' are just timeless in their power! This totally harrowing, often stomach-churning drama, is a commendably daring (but then again its not really daring when you are merely depicting the truth - no matter how grim or appalling) and unflinching look at life inside a boys juvenile centre (otherwise known as borstal).

Extremely edgy, startlingly powerful and shocking, 'Scum' depicts brutal violence, racial prejudice, homeosexuality and sexual abuse in an unflinching way that hits you right between the eyes! Not comfortable, easy viewing by any means. At times, you could easily forget your watching what is a superbly made drama, and think you are viewing a fly-on-the-wall documentary as it has that in-your-face, stark effect! You really will not be able to take your eyes off this stuff - if you enjoy being kept on the edge of your seat and being continually shocked then 'Scum' is definitely the film for you! The brutally stark realism in Ray Minton's screenplay is richly complemented by razor-sharp direction from the innovative, award-winning Alan Clarke (one of his few feature films as he mostly worked in television).

The ever-excellent Ray Winstone excels in the lead role as tough-boy Carlin. The role seems as though it was tailor made for him! Watching Ray Winstone stride confidently with that air of authority through the grim corridors of the borstal with that famous "Don't f*** with me" look on his face that Ray is renowned and legendary for, you do get the immediate impression that he didn't have to do much acting to convince you that he's not a man to be messed with! Ray breezes into the role naturally, though on the audio commentary of the DVD he credits this to director Alan Clarke.

Carlin (Ray Winstone) had ended up in a juvenile centre after being convicted of petty theft. He had been transferred to the borstal after defending himself against a vicious prison officer that had been kicking and beating the living daylights out of him! At first Carlin keeps his head down, wanting to serve his time as quickly and quietly as possible. Unfortunately the "daddy" on the wing has other ideas for Carlin. During one night in the crowded dormitory, the "daddy" and his gang of no-hope bullies give him a brutal beating. Carlin is visibly bruised all over and for this he ends up on a charge for fighting and serves 3 days in an isolation block! Having had plenty of time to brood whilst locked away, Carlin soon realises its time to assert himself in order to survive.

Some of the most violent moments in 'Scum' occur during recreation period, when Carlin stuffs a few snooker balls into a sock. With it tightly clenched in his fists, Carlin strides casually over to Richards (played by the superb Phil Daniels) and at full force, literally wraps it around Richards face and head, then gives him a good few kicks where it hurts! Casually again, Carlin strides off, places the snooker balls back on the table , glances at the bemused prisoners playing snooker and calmly says "well, carry on then" and then goes and hunts down the "daddy". He is found in the washroom, washing his face. Carlin wastes no time and grips hold of the so-called "daddy" by his head and continually smashes his face into the sink, cutting half his face open. It is then that Carlin utters those legendary words most associated with the film: "I'm the f***** daddy round here now!". Yes, it's all nasty, stuff yet riveting at the same time. It's due to Alan Clarke's astute, street-smart direction that gives the film that docudrama-like sharp edge.

The excellent Phil Daniels is particularly scary and menacing as the notorious bully, Richards, while Mick Ford is endearing as Archie. The refined but troublesome Archie thoroughly enjoys rebelling against all rules of the system and making life as difficult as possible for the corrupt, violent prison officers. Claiming to be a vegetarian (though he really isn't!) he refuses point blank to wear any leather shoes, having to have plastic shoes tailor-made for him, much to his amusement and their annoyance, refuses to attend chapel on a Sunday, much to the frustration of the deeply religious governor and is something of a philosopher (something else he enjoys annoying the "screws" with). A sensitive side to the character is shown in a touching scene where he takes the time to read to an illiterate boy all of his parents letters to him. Its a role Mick Ford plays with conviction, sensitivity and intelligence.

In a more gentle role is Julian firth Davis as the niaeve, vulnerable Alrick Riley, who has "victim" written across his face. He quickly becomes an easy target for the bullies, though is taken under the wing of Carlin. It has to be said that Julian Firth Davis is involved in what is easily the most harrowing scene of "Scum" when he is sexually abused and assaulted by 3 other prisoners. And the climatic riot scene is all visually powerful stuff!

"Scum" is outstanding in its direction, acting and screenplay and firmly stands a good head and shoulders over many British films today.In fact "Scum" is unparalleled! Its a film that immediately draws you in, not letting your attention lapse until the credits roll. Over 30 years on, it stands as a riveting, uncompromising look at life inside a borstal and is truly an out and out masterpiece.

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Pioneer

7/10
Author: Ricardo Fernandes from Portugal
8 January 2011

The thematic of violence in reformatories was perhaps started to be shown in films with "Scum". It gets a lot of credit with the fact that it was a pioneer in this subject.

Its controversy comes from the fact that it shows this kind of punishment seldom solves anything, rather it makes the problem worse. Shows the ineffectiveness of correctional facilities and policies.

The film is based not on the exploitation of violence, but in the realism of situations and the pure anger well performed by the actors.

Several decades later a remake is made - "Dog Pound" - with a lot of similarities with its predecessor, but overall is more intense due to a natural accumulation of knowledge in the film making industry.

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In "Scum" the lunatics truly are running the asylum.....................

10/10
Author: ianlouisiana from United Kingdom
27 September 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I remember in the early eighties driving a terrified young prisoner from Waltham Forest Court to a Young Offenders' Institute in Surrey for a well - earned six months on Her Majesty for 130 - odd burglaries.This was his first custodial sentence after 8 previous appearances at court for similar offences so it could be fairly said that he had had his chance and missed it.I could smell the fear on him as he sat agitatedly on the back seat of the Sierra."I seen that movie "Scum",guv,,I may never get out of there alive",he said between chattering teeth ."You'll be all right as long as you keep away from the greenhouse",I said a little maliciously. A few weeks later he was back on the street swaggering into Macdonald's. "A piece of p#ss it was,did it on me f####ing head",he informed me.So clearly the movie had served it's purpose and helped change the culture of violence endemic in many old - style Borstals.On the other hand he was back in the nick again within a month so there is clearly a fine line between deterrence and terrorisation. Where do we start with "Scum"?Well the title itself is a bit of a puzzle,does it refer to the prisoners or the screws?After all none of the inmates have volunteered to be inside but all of the screws have,and what a bunch of sadistic,bullying bastards they are.That's not to mention the casual racism,idleness and indifference.That these are men who have chosen a profession where they are free to abuse,assault and intimidate young boys without fear of reprisals says all you need to know about them. Humans are no different to pack animals in that there will always be an Alpha personality seeking to dominate a group.This is particularly true of an enclosed all - male society.The Alpha Male will demand obedience and tribute and act ruthlessly to obtain it.When Carlin(Mr R.Winston) is transferred to a tough new Borstal he knows he must become the Alpha Male or go under.The screws are happy to let the clique of "hard men" police the institution,dishing out frontier justice.When Carlin arrives and starts to upset the status quo,trouble soon follows. This is no place for the shy and fearful.Unless you can align yourself with one of the factions you become game for anybody. With the screws madder and badder than the convicts,in "Scum",the lunatics truly are running the asylum. This is not a film criticising Thatcherism.She had only just come into power when it was made and in fact it was her government that instigated the reforms that broke the sadistic regimes that ran some young persons' prisons. It is immensely powerful film,almost overpowering in parts,one of those rare works of art that actually influence governments .Everybody involved in it should be immensely proud.

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Pulls no Punches

8/10
Author: guardkid from London UK
13 February 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I remember seeing this back in the early 90's when it was shown on British TV for the first time (Channel 4's- 'Banned Season'). At the time I'd never heard of the film and knew nothing about it- this was probably the best way as the first time you watch it will give you the most shock-factor.

Grim, depressing and punctuated with scenes of brutal violence, bullying, suicide attempts, and extremely strong language - this film paints a disturbing picture of a British borstal at the end of the 1970's.

The 'screws' (the term used in the film for the men who run the borstal) are generally portrayed as unsympathetic sadistic disciplinarians - which in a strange way comes across as a refreshing change from the politically-correct, almost poncy state that is the Britain we live in now-a-days. The way the screws lay down the law and try to intimidate the three new arrivals including Carlin (a known troublemaker with a hard-man reputation) - is played out brilliantly by all.

There are so many memorable one-liners in the film. This was in a time when the term 'political correctness' was unheard of and is reflected in the dialogue throughout. Don't be surprised if you find yourself 'devouring up' some of the memorable quotes and replaying them in your mind over and over again. The tough regime in the institution is evident and reinforced during several scenes involving the screws and the offenders. The way they showed how the young-inmates had to appear in front of The Governor of the borstal was portrayed very effectively. Each one in turn was marched in and shouted at -army style.... then made to stand in front of his desk - with two screws standing in an intimidating manner either side right in the face of the subject ....'face the Governor -name and number!!' - brilliant.

The most memorable and disturbing scenes (like the infamous gang-rape scene) have already been referred to many times by other posters- but there are a probably only a couple of moments in the film that may make you laugh...for example -during the basketball game, where the big-moustache tough-looking 70's gym instructor complete with hairy chest,lays down the rules before start of play. All hell breaks loose with players fighting and verbally abusing each other- the instructor then gets stuck in and barges the yobs out of the way to restore order.

There are no heroes in this and the main protagonists all end up out on their feet...beaten up with bloodied faces, as the screws drag them to their cells as a punishment for the rioting at the end of the film.

Yes this is a gritty and at times disturbing film but brilliantly executed.

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Not good to be on gardening detail ......

Author: welshNick from United Kingdom
26 May 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is perhaps the most controversial film brought to us by the late great Alan Clarke and centres on life in one of the countries toughest borstals and the events that take place concerning three new inmates Carlin, Davis and Angel. Angel is a young black who has been out inside for stealing cars. He very soon finds out that Borstal is a place that is racist and brutal. Davis ends up being raped by three other inmates in the potting shed and ultimately commits suicide. Carlin is the hardman who ultimately rises to the top and becomes the 'daddy' of the institution which has the loyalty of the other inmates. This was banned initially when it came out, supposedly for racism and violence but that was wrong in this case. The whole place was run on fear and intimidation and this is what kept the inmates in check. When Borstals were finally closed in the early 1980's the liberals said what a good thing it was. You only have to look at the mess the country is in now with youth crime rife and people being done for assault if they resist a mugger or burgler. So why did Alan Clarke make this film ? Was he trying to show flaws in the system or was he trying to show the ultimate deterrent ? That is largely unclear and it is difficult to know whether to cheer for Carlin when he beats someone up or show sympathy when someone is covered in blood on the floor. Borstal were not perfect but they achieved one good thing. Those who broke the law got locked up in a largely controlled environment and were off the streets. Life was tough and was not the holiday camp it is now. Punishment is about deprivation and you will not stop crime unless there is a suitable deterrent. Scum covers these issues but leaves it up to the viewer to decide what is best for the future ...... an absolute masterpiece 10/10.

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So many now famous faces

Author: raypdaley182 from Coventry
24 October 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A film that if you feel you truly are a Brit Flick fan you should certainly see. Ray Winston near the start of a brilliant career, shines as a true star as Carlin. So many actors in this go onto to bigger and better things (everyone keeps saying Danny John Jules AKA The Cat in Red Dwarf is in this movie, i'm yet to see him). Micky Pearce from Only Fools and Horses, The bloke from The Bill.

A story told from both sides of Borstal, Cons on the inside and who runs them, and the staff and who they think they are running. People trying to make their name and reputation in an institutionalized place.

Archer trying to screw the staff by making life hard for them at every step. I think my main issue with this film is the greenhouse rape scene. These people hate this lad for being gay so they gang rape him? Doesn't this make them as gay as he is? Carlin seems to get on with the black guy whose wife dies while he is in prison but he still seems to be as racist as everyone else. I also think the ending of this film was changed because it feels wrong, I don't feel they would have just thrown Carlin and his mates into solitary then let them out (how ever long later) to get a stern lecture off the governor. The end of the riot wasn't really addressed or sorted out. This needed to be made definite, and either had Carlin and friends seriously hurt and re-establishing Pongo as The Daddy. I think either Carlin would have been killed or sent somewhere harder or the Borstal would have been fully under the control of Carlin and the staff in fear to return or Carlin having killed a member of staff. This couldn't be re-made today, it's a classic of it's time.

if you like ray in this he's also in Quadrophenia!

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As salty and as British as a large bag of chips (SPOILERS)

Author: world_of_weird from England
7 October 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Never quite managing to decide whether it's serious social commentary or straightforward B-movie exploitation, Alan Clarke's brutal and disturbing study of borstal life remains required viewing for all serious students of British film. In these post-politically correct times, it's actually possible to indulge in a little guilty laughter over the kipper-tied and sideburned 'screws' bellowing outrageous lines like "you black Brixton slag" and "you go stealing white men's motor cars, you get white men's stick", but don't expect to be laughing when Carlin (an astonishing performance by a young and svelte Ray Winstone) goes on the rampage with his sockful of pool balls, his iron bar and his own bare hands - the bathroom subjugation of the repugnant 'Pongo' being one of the most jarring and painfully realistic scenes in the film. Mick Ford also scores highly as Archer, the resident eccentric who delights in causing as much trouble for the warders as possible - even the relatively sympathetic Mr Duke comes in for some articulate chiding for having remained "a basic officer" despite a lifetime's service. The much-discussed rape scene near the end is every bit as gruelling as you've heard, and the victim's blood-soaked suicide will stay in your mind for a very long time. Also noteworthy for students of screen violence are Carlin's confrontation with 'Baldy', the climactic riot, the 'murderball' game and the hysterical suicide of a recently bereaved inmate. SCUM will probably always be outrageous, and that's undoubtedly exactly what its director wanted.

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Graphic representation of a system that stank

Author: Ewan O'Doherty from Dublin, Ireland
23 December 2002

My first viewing of 'Scum' was in September 2002, when shown by Channel 4 (UK). Set in a British Borstal, it is a very realistic account of brutality by both warders towards inmates, and among inmates themselves. Would young boys really be expected to improve and become better citizens after doing their time in such a place? While the most horrifying and graphic scenes are the vicious gang-rape of Davis and his subsequent suicide in his cell, other memorable scenes are those where savage violence is inflicted by Carlin on two fellow inmates to achieve his status as "The Daddy", and that where Archer is alone with one of the warders, Duke, in the snooker room. This scene begins with the only display of humanity by any of the warders, when Duke offers Archer some of his coffee from his Thermos flask. A discussion between them on the shortcomings of the penal system and Duke's apparent failure to gain promotion during all his years as a prison officer (he has only two years to go before retirement), results in Carlin being put 'on report' for insolence. Archer has by then mentioned that the system is about human beings 'being stripped of their dignity, both cons and screws...We're not much different in here, you know...', one of the most memorable quotations from the film.

Superbly photographed, directed and acted, the most significant feature of 'Scum' is the total absence of music, which contributes to the overall atmosphere, and focuses the viewer's concentration on the dramatic content. A must for fans of prison dramas.

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