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Scum (1979, Ray Winstone, Mick Ford)



When 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 … ‘

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 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.

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 Sundav 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’.

production details
UK | 98 minutes | 1979

Director: Alan Clarke
Script: Roy Minton

Ray Winstone as Carlin
Mick Ford as Archer
Julian Firth as Davis
John Blundell as Banks
Phil Daniels as Richards
John Judd as Mr. Sands
Philip Jackson as Greaves
Peter Howell as Governor
John Grillo as Goodyear
Ray Burdis as Eckersley
Alan Igbon as Meakin
Bill Dean as Mr Duke
John Fowler as Woods
Jo Kendall as Matron
Alrick Riley as Angel
Sean Chapman as James
Andrew Paul as Betts
Patrick Murray as Dougan
Herbert Norville as Toyne
George Winter as Rhodes
Nigel Humphreys as Taylor
Perry Benson as Formby
Peter Francis as Baldy
P.H. Moriarty as Mr. Hunt