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Scum

Ray Winstone , Mick Ford , Alan Clarke    R (Restricted)   DVD

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The son of a bricklayer who also spent some time as a laborer before studying acting and directing in Canada, Alan Clarke (who died in 1990) got his start at the BBC in the 1960s. By 1977, he had directed his explosive and controversial television feature, Scum, starring Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast) as a survivor at a corrupt and brutal juvenile prison. Harrowing, claustrophobic, and deeply tragic, Scum was banned by the BBC for graphic brutality (and, quite likely, criticism of the justice system), leading Clarke to remake it with Winstone and the same script as a 1979 theatrical release. Both versions are included on this disc, and each is a unique experience. The earlier Scum is a lean, low-budget, relentlessly nightmarish drama while its second take is moodier, slower, and intermittently shocking. --Tom Keogh

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ray Winstone is still the "f***** daddy"! Aug. 24 2009
By Ian Phillips - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
"Scum" (1979) may now be over 30 years old, but its stunning power, notoriety and shock factor hasn't dwindled! Nor has its wide spread appeal. Films like "Scum" are just simply 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 merley depicting the truth - no matter how grim or appalling) and unflinching look at life inside a fictious boys juvenile centre (otherwise known as borstal).

Extremely edgy, startlingly powerful and completely shocking, "Scum" depicts brutal violence, racial predujice, homeosexuality and sexual abuse in a way that hits you right between the eyes! Not comfortable, easy viewing by any means - almost like sitting on a barbed wire fence its that painfully real. You could easily forget your watching, what is a superbly made drama, and think you were watching a documentary as it has that in-your-face, astoundingly 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 Mintons written screenplay is richly complimented 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 excells 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 didnt 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 his superb performance to director Alan Clarke. Its a flawless, dynamic performance and Ray is utter perfection in the role.

Carlin (Ray Winstone) had ended up in a juvenile centre after being convicetd 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. Unfortunatley 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 Carlin a brutal beating. Carlin is visibly bruised all over and for this he end up on a charge for fighting and serves 3 days in an isolation block! Having had plenty of time to think while locked away, Carlin soon realises its time for business and asserts himself in order to survive.

Some of the most brutal moments in "Scum" occur when during recreation period, 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, brutal stuff yet riviting at the same time. It's due to Alan Clarkes astute, street-smart direction that gives the film that docudrama-like sharp edge.

The brilliant Phil Daniels is particularly scary and menacing as the notorious bully Richards while Mick Ford is equally endearing as Archie. The refined but troublesome Archie thoroughly enjoys rebelling againse all rules of the system and enjoys making life as difficult and aggrivating as possible for the corrupt, violent prison officers. Claiming to be a vegetarian (though subsequently is revealed he actually isnt!) 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, is an aethiast who refuses to attend chapel on a Sunday much to the frustration of the deeply religious givernor and is something of a philospher (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, vulnreable Alrick Riley, who has "victim" written across his face. He swiftly 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. Hard to keep your eyes open in that scene as its deeply disturbing. To add to the sheer horror of this, one of the officers simply stands by and watches the brutal attack with a sick, sadistic smile on his face throughout! What's equally disturbing is when Alrick, following the rape, slashes his own wrists and begins crying and shouting out in agony. He rings the bell in his cell continually, but the officer on duty ignores it! He is tragically discovered dead in his cell the following morning. Excruciating scenes!

Other than the nightmarish violence, the film also highlights racism by both the prisoners and the officers in charge! Many of the sadistic warders constantly taunt the black prisoners and encourage racism among the other prisoners. For instance in a game of basketball the teams are split into black people vs white people. Yet the warder claims its NOT a racial thing and not to fight but during the game he witnesses much violence, which is simmering with racial tension, and just turns a blind eye!

The famous, climatic riot was evidently improvised as explained in the audio commentary by Ray Winstone. Following the tragic, senseless death of Alrick Riley, the "daddy" Carlin decides to take a stand against the diabolical treatment that the prison officers subject them too and to show the death of Alrick was the final straw! It is in the dining room that he stages the riot, throwing his food tray against the wall and on cue all the prisoners follow in pursuit by completely trashing the entire area, throwing tables, chairs, anything they could get their hands on, and smashing all the windows (despite being told not to by the director as explained in one of the interviews on the dvd with Phil Daniels). Its visually powerful stuff! Their victory doesnt last long as after the riot has ended, and in the penultimate scene, Carlin, Archie and other prisoners are seen dragged into their cells after another brutal bashing from the warders.

"Scum" is outstanding in its direction, acting and screenplay and firmly stands a good head and shoulders over many British films today.Infact "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 riviting, uncompromising look at life inside a borstal and is truly an out and out masterpiece.

Ian Phillips
August 2009
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic British prison movie! May 26 2004
By Mr N Forbes-warren - Published on Amazon.com
This film made in 1979 pulls no punches in its depiction of life in a maximum security British Borstal institution. Set roughly in the 1960s, the main character, Carling, played by Ray Winstone(LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS) is sent to maximum security for punching a warden at his previous institution, and soon has to face up to a taste of his own medicine from both prisoners and wardens alike. But when he stands up to the 'daddies'(watch out for Phil Daniels of QUADROPHENIA and BREAKING GLASS fame as one of them!) that run the wing and becomes a leader himself, this only a small part of the story. Regular beatings and frame-ups from the wardens are an everyday occurrance. Racism is rife, the language used would never be allowed in a santised Hollywood production today! The violent scenes are extremely graphic, most notably when Carling confronts the daddy of another wing in the prison. Finally, during gardening duties, there is a brutal rape scene and a very disturbing aftermath. In amongst the brutality, a young prisoner called Archer is continually making life difficult for the wardens. The verbal exchanges between him and the Governor(a religious fanatic) are well worth watching and provide much-needed satirical comic relief! So if you can get hold of a copy(it's available in the UK much more easily now since the ban was lifted), it comes highly recommended, but be warned, it is not for the squeamish!
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RAW , HEARTBREAKING AND SCARY June 2 2007
By Oliver Penn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I watched the first version of this film, but had to wait a couple of days before I viewed the latter version of two years later. It was THAT strong -- brutal and vile. "Man's inhumanity to man" fits this film perfectly.

Yes, out-of-control youth must be dealt with, but not by inhuman, depraved authoritarians! The administrators of this borstal (reformatory) were all sick, demented sex perverts, who seem to get pleasure out of watching these young men devour one another.

Both versions are brutal, but the remake went even further, especially the greenhouse rape. In the first version, there were two harmless-looking lads who attacked "James". In the sequel, three toughs were the perpetrators. The attact went on for what seemed, several minutes (screen time). For the victim, it probably felt like hours.

Both films are nearly identical with some of the same actors repeating their roles, especially the lead, Ray Winstone, but the actors were so good, it didn't matter that all of the originals didn't return. It was interesting to see other actors take on the parts.

The latter version does seem more "modern." But the sexual angle was played down. In the second version, Winstone's character didn't seek out a "wife" to take care of his sexual needs. Also, the suicide of the rape victim was more graphic, therefore shocking.

A hardcore version of the movie is now out called "Borstal Boy" and it provides what even SCUM couldn't: graphic sex, which was probably the major activity that went on in these institutions, out-ranking violence.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful greatly overlooked 70's classic! May 4 2013
By Quadro Sinead Summer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This is one of the best underground films of the 70s I have never heard of that think I have seen. Its a bold, dark and relentless story of just how unforgiving unfair and brutal life can and does get inside of a boys reform school in England, or for that matter, just about anywhere where children are subjected to crude and unusual punishment at the hands of their own peers. And a corrupt reform system that simply doesnt work correctly because adults responsible for runing such programs effectively give over to turning a blind eye and the result is a corrupt way of thinking and lack of responsible rulership. This is truly a depressing and dark film that offers very little in the way of a positive message. There is however a moment here and there where one individual decides he will not be dominated by cruel and brutal human beings, and takes action. That is indeed a memorable segment of this film. While the movie has no social redeeming value, it does subject the viewer to consider just how completely rediculous the situation of incarceration for youngers can become when a beaurocracy that is meant to control it has no honorable leaders to implement it appropriately. The film is realistic, well acted, and moveing at moments, and I think its one of the better films you may have never heard of from the 70s. A better film than I expected.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very true of the joint July 24 2010
By shaggy b 215448 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
i must say after 11 yrs in the joint,this is one film that has a ton of truth with what goes on behind bars and if it dont move u or at least make ur stomach turn at a few of the evints in it,then u are prime canidetes for the joint ur self and u,ll be at home.it may be set in england,but the joint isnt no place fun or for a holiday.beatings,killings,rapes racism is a sad fact of the society there and everyone should see this to show them why it is not,not cool to go up state.great and moving film.

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