Scum is a 1979 film portraying the brutality of life inside a British borstal. Directed by Alan Clarke, written by Roy Minton and starring, Ray Winstone, Mick Ford, Julian Firth, John Blundell, Phil Daniels, Alan Igbon and Ray Burdis, it tells the story of a young offender named Carlin as he arrives at the institution, and his rise through violence and self-protection to the top of the inmates’ pecking order, purely as a tool to survive. Beyond Carlin’s individual storyline, it is also cast as an indictment of the borstal system’s flaws. The film is violent, with a vicious male rape scene (the victim is a minor) that leads to the suicide of the victim. It features two suicides in total, many fights which are not short on realism and a large amount of racism and strong language. The warders and convicts alike are brutalized by the system. There is no attempt at rehabilitation; the inmates are simply left to their own devices.
Alan Clarke (28 October 1935 – 24 July 1990) was a television and film director, producer and writer, born in Wallasey, Cheshire, England.
Most of Clarke’s output was for television rather than cinema, including work for the famous play strands The Wednesday Play and Play for Today. His subject matter tended towards social realism, especially with respect to deprived or oppressed communities.
As Rolinson’s book on Clarke details, between 1962 and 1966 Clarke directed several plays at The Questors Theatre in Ealing, London. Between 1967 and 1969 he directed various ITV productions including plays by Alun Owen (Shelter, George’s Room, Stella, Thief, Gareth), Edna O’Brien (Which Of These Two Ladies Is He Married To? and Nothing’s Ever Over) and Roy Minton (The Gentleman Caller, Goodnight Albert, Stand By Your Screen). He also worked on the series The Informer, The Gold Robbers and A Man Of Our Times (but not, as Sight and Sound once claimed, Big Breadwinner Hog). Clarke continued… read more
Brutal but powerful. I loved the stark clinical way the film is shot with no music, an ironic contrast to the wrong doings going on in the borstal.Great cast as well. I do feel the film had little charecter development which would make me care about them more. The film was more a sequence of happenings which alienated core human emotions. But it's a film which intends to deliver a message and it does this well. 4/5
Something of an icon for the thuggery it supposedly deplores. The BBC play is generally superior with a sparer, bleaker take on institutional brutalism and a more finely drawn set of character vignettes than this too broad a version which tends to confuse punchy drama for crude, binary violence. Nevertheless it has a certain rough simplicity in its slam-dunk approach, even if the reform plea is crushed underfoot.