Scum - Scum( Blu Ray) [Powerhouse Films - 2019]Released in 1979 Scum was the big screen remake of Alan Clarke’s BBC play of the same name, originally filmed in 1977 and subsequently banned by the Beeb due to its controversial nature Clarke returned to the film with largely the same cast after the BBC refused to sell him the original film. Scum was one of those films that became a big talking point in the school yard when I was growing up. Alan Clarke’s tale of borstal life was brutal and hard-hitting docudrama that remains as powerful today as it was then.
The story concerns the character of Carling, played by a young Ray Winstone, who is a newly arrived Borstal inmate with a ready-made reputation for troublemaking. He assaulted one of the guards at his last institute, which led to him being moved on. Initially he tries to keep his head down and serve out his time, however, others around him (both inmates and officers) are determined to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Scum is a damning indictment on the dehumanisation process that the borstal system put young people through in 1970s Britain. Stripped of their identity and brutalised by a system that failed to reward positive behaviour, the young men in Scum are seemingly robbed of all hope for the future. Carling soon learns that in order to survive in the borstal system he must defend his corner with violent consequences for both him and his fellow inmates.
In its wider context, the film looks at a host of issues experienced by the young people of Britain at the time, ranging from racism, homosexuality, rape and suicide, to that sense of hopelessness experienced by many young people with regards to their future career prospects in one of the most depressing periods in modern British history. We must never be allowed to forget the economic decline and general depression that was felt nationwide, on which Margaret Thatcher rode to Downing Street. The trials and tribulations experienced by Carling, Archer, Davis, Angel and the others are heart-breaking and remain difficult to watch today 40 years later! The violence they experience is realistic and brutal and Davis’s rape remains one of the most harrowing sequences ever committed to celluloid, but it has a sense of honesty and represents a snapshot of 1970s Britain with a grim basis in reality.
Powerhouse films new bluray is a revelation for fans of the film, featuring a stunning new 2k print struck from the original negatives and approved by director of photography Phil Méheux, that looks and sounds better than ever. This limited 40 th anniversary edition features an exclusive 80 page book, a double sided poster and a host of supplementary material that includes an informative audio-commentary from Winstone and film critic Nigel Floyd and a host of interviews with cast and crew that help to shine new light on the film’s troubled past.
After all these years Scum retains its power to both shock and horrify viewers. It remains a bleak, joyless vision of a dystopian Britain that like all valuable cinema highlights the real problems faced in British society at the time. Scum remains a reminder that we must continue to build a better, fairer world that doesn’t institutionalise its problems, but fixes them.Darren Charles