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Scum (1977)

TV Movie  |   |  Crime, Drama
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This is the hard and shocking story of life in a British borstal for young offenders. Luckily the regime has changed since this TV film was made. The brutal regime made no attempt to reform... See full summary »



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Title: Scum (TV Movie 1977)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Carlin (as Raymond Winstone)
Martin Phillips ...
Davidson Knight ...
John Blundell ...
Ray Burdis ...
Ian Sharrock ...
Tony London ...
Peter Kinley ...
Sheridan Earl Russell ...
Colin Mayes ...
Trevor Butler ...
Philip DaCosta ...
Formby (as Philip Da Costa)


This is the hard and shocking story of life in a British borstal for young offenders. Luckily the regime has changed since this TV film was made. The brutal regime made no attempt to reform or improve the inmates and actively encouraged a power struggle between the 'tough' new inmate and the 'old hands'. Written by Steve Crook <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama


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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The (positive) press screening was held in London's Wardour Street, in Soho, after the producer and director had been recently told by the BBC that it was not to be aired on television. See more »


Formby: [In the self-help meeting] Why am I so far away from home Matron?
Eckersley: Because you murdered that kid.
See more »


Version of Scum (1979) See more »


Wide Boy
Written by Rick Lloyd
Performed by The Amazing Mike Kahn Band
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User Reviews

It's true, the film version is miles better
23 October 2004 | by (Ireland) – See all my reviews

Scum has been one of my favourite films for the past couple of years and ever since I first saw it I've wanted to see the original banned BBC version. I finally got the chance recently. It was with big anticipation that I viewed the '77 Scum but it turned out to be an anti-climax. I hate to say this, but I found it disappointing. It's more low budget than the remake and the production values aren't as good. It's shot on grainier film and it's somewhat more dark and murky. It has a more raw, gritty look to it and it's even more bleak and downbeat which obviously adds a lot to the overall atmosphere but it doesn't necessarily make it better. It's set in a different borstal that's even more squalid and claustrophobic than the one in the film. This makes this version less visually pleasant to look at. The pacing in this version is quicker. The pace in the film version was slower, which gave more room for character development.

A key difference between the two versions is Archer. Here he's played by David Threlfall, and I wasn't really all that impressed with his performance. I thought Mick Ford was outstanding in his interpretation of Archer. He really conveyed Archer's non-conformist,anti-establishment intellectual rebel streak. Threlfall doesn't succeed as well. Ford's Archer delighted in making life as hard as possible for the screws. Here Threlfall plays Archer far too glum and dour. His '70s footballer hairstyle and 'tache is also a major distraction. No disrespect to David Threlfall, but I preferred Mick Ford's portrayal. Overall, the quality of the acting is varied. It ranges from very good with the principal actors to poor with some of the lesser known actors in supporting roles. Ray Winstone is excellent in his debut. Phil Daniels is good but I thought he was better in the movie. He overdoes it a bit here. His performance in the film version was more subtle. He had better hair in the remake too.

The '79 Scum is still as shocking and graphic now as it was 25 years ago whereas this version is somewhat tame. Looking at it now it's hard to see what the Beeb was so upset about. The BBC version lacks the realism of the remake; the beatings aren't as convincing and the swearing here is minimal(It's surreal to see Ray 'Cahnt' Winstone say "Stuff 'em!" instead of "F**k 'em!"). Some of the most powerful sequences in the film version are done much less effectively here and have nowhere near as much impact. For instance, the scene where Archer talks to Mr Duke in the deserted common room while all the other cons are in chapel. In the movie, that scene is compelling. It works nowhere near as well here. The actor who played Duke in the scene was all wrong. He was too jovial. He almost had a smile on his face throughout it. As stated, the rape scene isn't as graphic here. Davis' trauma and his eventual suicide are also done much better in the movie. The cosh-sock scene and Carlin's ascension as the new Daddy are done pretty well here (despite the lack of F-words) but "Where's ya tool?" was much better in the movie. The biggest difference in this version is a subplot where Carlin asks another inmate to be his 'missus',which I find unconvincing and I don't think it really adds anything to the film. I'm glad it was dropped from the film version. One major complaint I had with this version was that an indescribably bad and totally inappropriate song was playing over the end credits.

It seems pretty unusual for a film to be remade using the same director and (mostly) the same cast but it's actually not unheard of for a director to remake their own film. Robert Rodriguez remade 'El Mariachi' as 'Desperado' and 'Heat' was a remake of Michael Mann's earlier TV film 'LA Takedown'. That's probably the best comparison. The theatrical Scum is Heat, the BBC version is LA Takedown.

Overall, the BBC version isn't as striking or powerful as the remake. The movie was grim but it still managed to be enjoyable. This version feels more depressing and it's not as entertaining. Maybe it would seem better if you hadn't seen the definitive '79 version. At best,it's an interesting curiosity. If you're a fan of the remake, it's advisable to lower your expectations before you watch this Scum. The film version is superior in every way.

16 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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