Eye For Film >> Movies >> Scum (1979) DVD Review
Reviewed by: Nick JonesRead Nick Jones's film review of Scum
In 1977, Alan Clarke presented the BBC with his controversial no-holds-barred depiction of Seventies borstal. Despite pouring £120,000 into its production, the BBC promptly shelved it, due to its relentlessly violence and, more specifically, its truthful reflection of the failures of the Tory government of the time. Two years later it was remade as a theatrical release.
Fans today still rave about this cult classic and, for them, the Collector's Edition will be invaluable, as it features both the banned TV version and the remake. Both feature many of the same actors, including a fresh-faced Ray Winstone, as hardman protagonist Carling, and the script is almost identical, but there are some interesting differences beyond the choices of camera angles and scenery.
For example, Archer, perhaps the most interesting character in Scum, is portrayed by David Threlfall in the original and Mick Ford in the remake. Both approach the character quite differently, with Ford's version having the edge; he comes across as more arrogant and intelligent than Threlfall, making the quirky rebel's defiance of the wardens much more powerful and, at times, refreshingly amusing. Another noticeable difference is the lack of Carling's "missus" in the remake. As the newly established "daddy" of the prison, Carling is allowed certain privileges, one of which is to have his pick of the inmates as his lover. The homosexual element is sensitively done and adds another dimension to Winstone's otherwise macho character, giving the viewer much more to ponder on than just the issue of prison brutality.
Both versions of Scum come on a disc of their own, with enough features to satisfy any hardcore fan. Disc 1 has an interview with film critic Derek Malcolm, who rightly reminds us that without Clarke, there would be no Loach, nor Leigh - at least, they would have had a much harder time making their own "difficult" films. Producer Margaret Matheson is also interviewed, providing her side of the story behind the BBC's banning of her labour of love.
Disc 2 is brimming with extras. Threlfall, Phil Daniels and others reminisce on Clarke's distinctively hands-on approach and the now legendary Winstone provides a commentary, which makes watching the film entertaining in a new way, because you can't stop thinking of how far the Winstone that is talking to you has come since his unassuming performance in these early films.
Best of all, however, is the interview with the very likeable Roy Minton, who tells us that originally he and Clarke planned to make a trilogy, of which the tale about borstal would have been one part of a bigger story. He also tells us how Clarke's ego skyrocketed when remaking the film, removing Minton from the proceedings and "savaging" his script. It is a shame the pair's friendship ended here and that Clarke died before his time. His absence is felt on these invaluable discs, just as it is felt on British TV screens today.Reviewed on: 28 Jun 2005