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Scum is a fabulously gritty borstal drama revolving around troublemaker
Carlin (Winstone) and his campaign to do his time quietly. The menacing
staff and inmates of the Borstal (young offenders prison) are
realistic and the whole film has the feel of a fly-on-the-wall
Sporadic violence comes with no warning and the rape scene in the
is one of the most harrowing I have seen on film (may be cut in some
versions). Full marks to Alan Clarke and Ray Minton for this
Scum was originally apart of a trilogy that writer Roy Minton and
Director Alan Clarke thought of whilst they were making Funny Farm in
1975. It consisted three films that focused individually on Police
training, Army Training and Borstal. They approached a number of
backers however it was deemed to costly to make therefore the idea was
cancelled. However one backer did put up the money for one of these to
be made. Clarke and Minton immediately went for Scum.
The television version of Scum is probably the most famous TV movie to be made in great Britain. This is quite a feat because the vast majority of people will not have seen this TV movie. They will be more aware of the 1979 feature film version. Either way whatever one you see you will be left breathless and shocked at what unveils before our eyes over 78 mins this beautiful bounty runs.
The story is set in one of her majesties Borstals in which underage criminals are dealt with. The lynch pin in the story manifests itself in the form of Carlin played to perfection by the ever wonderful Ray Winstone. Whose arrival at the Borstal from day one sends reverberations around the Borstals corridors because of his previous status as the Daddy in his last Borstal. He arrives with two other inmates Davis and Angel. Davis is instantly the target of bullies and Angel is abused through racial taunts because he is black. They are instantly greeted with physical and verbal abuse from the warders. As the film opens we meet the other trainees (inmates) and we begin to realize that they are far from the criminal hooligans that we would expect them to be. They are lost and vulnerable. They are abused by the people that are there to look after them. In all this comes the supporting character Archer played by David Threfall. An intellectual anarchist whose hours are passed pretending to be vegetarian and not wearing leather shoes on his feet. The Warders are portrayed as ruthless in bullying going so far as to show one of them watch on and let a rape continue.
Alan Clarke established his notoriety with this TV Movie and he continued to provoke the audience with his further films. Clarke is a bona fide realist in my mind he portrays individuals who are thrown into extraordinary circumstances and he his never afraid to pull a punch to create the genuine feeling of realism in his films. Only Ken Loach and scotch director John Mac Kenzie have this effect. But Alan Clarke is in my favourite I have yet to see a film of his that does not effect me.
The only problem I had with it was that it was not cast as well as the film version which has quality performances from non-actors. But all in all a bloody good show.
I'll try not to comment on the controversy of this television drama .
Everyone knows it was banned by the BBC prior to being shown on its
PLAY FOR TODAY slot in 1977 and it wasn't until the early 1990s that
the BBC relented by showing it with little fanfare .
Over all I thought the film version was better . Structure wise Roy Minton's script is more or less the same as the movie version with one added strand here where Carling is allowed to have a " wife " , in reality one of the younger prisoners , as a perk for being a daddy , a story strand that doesn't really work in my opinion . Director Alan Clarke would later re-employ nearly the entire cast for the movie version with the exception of Archer , and I couldn't thinking while watching the movie that Archer was written as a type of hippy . Here David Throfall plays Archer as .... A hippy . I don't want to criticise Mick Ford's performance in the movie but here we see the role played as it was written and is the superior version , but this is the only aspect where the original teleplay out scores the movie
I think because the movie version can get away with so much more than a television drama ( At least one made in the 1970s ) this version isn't so gritty and compelling . The film includes extreme language in every scene which adds to the realism and as has been mentioned the infamous rape scene isn't as shocking and depressing as the one in the movie version so compared to the 1979 cinema release the original television drama might be something of a disappointment leading the viewer to ask what was the controversy about in the first place ?
Scum (1977) was originally produced as part of the BBC's Play for Today
series, but the result, shot in a gritty docu-drama style, was
considered too harrowing for broadcast and was effectively banned. Two
years later, director Alan Clarke remade his play as a film, which
became one of the most talked about movies in British school
playgrounds during the early 80s thanks to its unrelenting violence,
racist language, and a particularly notorious rape scene.
So, how do the two versions compare? Well, barring one or two minor scenes, the original TV play and the 1979 film are almost identical to each other in terms of basic content and structure, with much of the same dialogue, many of the same cast members, and Clarke using the same set-ups and angles for his shots. However, the two versions do differ from each other in terms of performances: although the cast are more than adequate in the TV version, the play feels a bit like a dress rehearsal when compared with the movie, the cast seemingly still working out how best to tackle their roles. Two years down the line, and everybody absolutely nails it, but here there are one or two performances that fall a little flat.
That said, the play is still a fine piece of work, a powerful and highly controversial dramaone that, to this day, I find it hard to believe the BBC even contemplated showing in 1977.
Alan Clarke's film introduced us to a powerful new talent in Ray Winstone. Undeniably brutal but an allegory on the worship of simple governance by power. This film, coupled with another film, "Made in Great Britain" with Tim Roth was an indictment of the Thatcher type anti-society policies. Ray Winstone builds his part slowly, gathering power and authority during his stay in the institution and is climaxed when he says "who's the daddy now?" It was such a powerful performance that I always wait with anticipation his next outing and have rarely been disappointed.
Carlin (Ray Winstone of "Nil by mouth" and "Sexy Beast") is a young
criminal who after assaulting a police officer gets sent to a borstal
(juvinial prison), with two other youth offenders, where they find life
inside hell with the authoritarian system brutal and the criminal
inmate hierarchy equally, if not more so. They must find a way to
survive. Carlin is able to climb the hierarchy, the other two are not
really that 'lucky' This TV movie was shelved by the BBC1 for 14 years
before before being shown on Channel 4 exactly once, and then only in
honor of a deceased Alan Clarke. Gritty, and depressing if a slight bit
overly sensationalized. Still it's interesting to watch even if the
feature film version IS better. In response to the shelving of the film
Clarke and writer Minton remade it as a theatrical film in two years
later in 1979. This movie can be found in Blue Undergrounds Alan Clarke
My Grade: B-
DVD Extras: Commetary with actors Phil Daniels & David Threlfall, and Producer Margaret Matheson; 2 Selected scenes commentary by Ray Winstone (one of which wasn't in the film)
this movie was made after the B.B.C. had problems with the original TV version,which to my mind was just as brutal.you can't help but root for Carlin as he gets his revenge,the greenhouse scene has to be up there with the likes of certain scenes from 'cannibal holocaust' and 'last house on the left'.Truly harrowing and unforgettable.Ray Winstone is one of my all time favourite actors,as is Phil Daniels.This film stands as a tribute to Alan Clarke (Made In Britain is also another classic).This movie remains as one of the grittiest movies I have ever seen.I saw it for the first time when I was about ten years of age,on a pre-certificate VHS copy round at my dad's mate's house one Saturday night.The film has stayed with me ever since,and now I own my own copy of the film,I hope to show it to my son when he is older(I hope he appreciates it!!!)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tough and surly young thug Carlin (Ray Winstone in his outstanding film
debut) runs afoul of vicious top con Banks (well played with growly
menace by John Blundell), but still manages to usurp Banks's status as
the new "daddy" at a harsh borstal for juvenile offenders.
Director Alan Clarke does a masterful job of crafting an uncompromisingly gritty tone and pervasively bleak atmosphere of frightening complete brutality, with the prison staff coming across as every bit as savage and predatory as the inmates and life behind bars depicted as a grim and dehumanizing ordeal for both parties. Roy Minton's hard-hitting script tackles such edgy issues as racism, corruption, homosexuality, and abuse of authority head on. The fine acting by the able cast qualifies as another significant asset, with especially praiseworthy contributions from Martin Phillips as the timid Davis, Davidson Knight as persecuted black inmate Angel, David Threlfall as insolent intellectual anarchist Archer, and Phil Daniels as loudmouth braggart Richards. John Wyatt's stark cinematography adds to the overall scrappy authenticity. Pretty strong stuff.
This film was to show the horrors of a typical British Reform School,
complete with regular beatings, humiliations, and even a rape scene.
Sadistic staff and a team of violent and intimidating "daddys"
terrorize the weak and timid members of the roughly 100 detainees.
Racism and hypocrisy are in full gear. This is the Jr. Version of
"Glass House", only even more graphic.
This film is very difficult to watch and was actually banned by the BBC to ever be broadcast due to the extreme violence and shocking situations. Although I watched to the end, I just don't quite see the value (especuially for entertainment) in this fictional nightmare. Perhaps as a "Scared Straight" project it could deter at-risk children from a life of crime. Otherwise any slasher movie will do less emotional damage to an impressionable mind. I do not recommend this film
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