Scum (1979 - film version)

running time: 98 minutes
Lloyds Company

Ray Winstone in ScumUK poster for film version of SCUMOur boy takes a beating

written by Roy Minton
directed by Alan Clarke
produced by Clive Parsons & Davina Belling

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According to Adam Jahnke, in August 2004 a limited edition five-disc set of director Alan Clarke's films is being released. The box includes the movies Made in Britain, The Firm, Elephant and both the BBC and theatrical versions of Scum. Also included is a documentary on Alan Clarke with contributions from Tim Roth, Danny Boyle, Ray Winstone and others.

On 27 July 1991 BBC2 aired the first screening of the TV version of Scum, which was a 1977 Play for Today which had been banned and took 14 years to be shown.

Press release from Channel 4 TV when Scum was shown (a repeat) on Sunday 14 April 1991:

Ray Winstone (Carlin) and John Blundell (Banks) in ScumWhen Roy Minton's powerful and controversial television play Scum was banned by the BBC from being transmitted, it was seen by a number of leading critics, among them Stephen Gilbert who wrote in The Observer: "Within the naturalistic framework there's a rattling good tale in the staunch tradition of Hollywood liberalism. The hero, a clear victim of injustice, overcomes the system, holds to his integrity, vanquishes the villains and establishes a new and, it's implied, more principled order... Another obvious parallel is the Warner Bros. cycle of the Thirties. Carlin is no more heroicized than the figures Cagney played in, say, Angels with Dirty Faces or Each Dawn I Die, movies which, like If..., the BBC is content to screen".

Producers Clive Parsons and Davina Belling read Gilbert's piece and, says Parsons, "At that stage we were seeking a film project that was intrinsically about life but of universal appeal without being parochial, something that had real guts and substance rather than a piece of candy floss" and so, after seeing the banned television film, Parsons and Belling bought the screen rights and made the screen version of Scum with Minton scripting the compelling story of life in a contemporary Borstal, an institution run by violence and brutality rather than reason and where a boy who is able to fight his way to the top of the heap can gain respect of both his fellow inmates and the sadistic prison officers.

Alan Clarke, who had made the banned television play, again directed with sensitivity and brilliance, eliciting from his then largely unknown cast natural and unforced performances which added to the impact of one of the major films of the Seventies.

Ray Winstone in ScumSaid Screen International: "Strong meat, but never gratuitously shocking, this is a feather in the British film industry's cap to be worn with pride but with humility rather than arrogance.... Scum is powerful, disturbing and moving; it is also absorbing, exciting entertainment with inbuilt suspense and paced to allow for the nervous relief of laughter. The performances of the young actors are impressively convincing.... Clarke directs Roy Minton's crusading screenplay with a controlled ferocity that makes no compromises. He shows us a hell in which the inmates and the screws are equally damned but the absolute power of the officers ensures their absolute damnation". And the Sun commented that: "It is an important film and one which should be seen", while Now! wrote: "It is brilliantly made, anger vibrating through every moment... it is a remarkably courageous film with outstanding performances". The Sunday Telegraph reported: "It is a scorchingly fine film: I cannot remember the last time I saw a British picture so confident in the courage of its convictions".

Channel 4 also records that after this film version received its British TV premier on Channel 4 in June 1983 - with scarcely any immediate complaint - Mary Whitehouse (a crusader against sex and violence on TV) took the IBA to judicial review for allowing its transmission without a referral to the whole Authority. The IBA's decision to allow the transmission without such a referral was vindicated on appeal.

Ray Winstone in ScumAnother newspaper review said: "This brutal but intelligent drama chronicles one youth's fight for dignity in the midst of a violent and oppressive environment. Originally conceived and made as a television play, Roy Minton's harrowing drama about life in a borstal was banned by the BBC who bottled out of screening it once it had been made. It was rescued from obscurity by Clive Parsons and Davina Belling who produced the feature film. Bristling with anger and realism there are excellent performances from a largely unknown cast including Ray Winstone, Phil Daniels, Mick Ford and John Judd. Foul-mouthed, sadistic and nasty, Mary Whitehouse (who kicked up quite a fuss when it was last screened) will probably not want to watch it again".

Carlin Ray Winstone
Archer Mick Ford
Davis Martin Philips
Richards Phil Daniels
Eckersley Ray Burdis
Banks John Blundell

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