I have a confession to make, before I proceed with this review. I only had a single disc version of this film and as such didn’t get the raft of extras. So I will cover only what I have seen and that is that. In 1977, a BBC TV version of SCUM was banned. It is hardly surprising as the subject was and is brutally handled. This version is not on the disc. I believe (via those in the know) that it is in some kind of copyright hell. Now director Alan Clarke (The Firm, Made in Britain) and writer Roy Minton (Funny Farm) remade it as a feature film. Now celebrating its 40th anniversary,it has left a mark still to this day felt.
Borstal. England. 1970s. Tough, brutal and squalid. Three new inmates Carlin (Ray Winstone), Angel (Alrick Riley) and Davis (Julian Firth). All in for various reasons. Theft, fighting and absconding. Each is allocated a room in a dormitory.Carlin is told the rules. He is getting tough time. After having been transferred for assaulting a warden. The screws want him to suffer. They tell him the current Daddy, Banks (John Blundell) wants a fight, to underline his control and force Carlin to lose any ideas of control. He has had friends that he makes like Archer (Mick Ford), a rounded and intelligent inmate, who wants to to do his time and cause as much aggravation as possible to the screws. When Carlin is pushed to far, will he react with force or by turning the other cheek.
Yes its a controversial but it is more than the sum of its parts. Alan Clarke is and should be the real talking point. If you have not, you must see his collected works (available on BFI DVD). His state of the nation films were really bold. So bold that the BBC built quite a reputation for producing them. He had produced work shown on The Wednesday Play and Play for Today. However his individual films were something else. This lead to SCUM, conservative members in the BBC being very offended, national institutes being reviewed and changed (though the Borstal system had during and after the making of SCUM). The film was shown on Channel 4 finally but still caused a sensation. In the playgrounds, chants of ‘I’m the daddy!’. In society a conversation about whether the boys in these institutes, were not getting to rough treatment. Some thought they deserved more.
I had the DVD (which had both version on). This is a substantial step up from that. Gone is the light rupturing, fuzz, grain and yes even that awful white light burn. So now you have the cell scenes, that is isolation cells, less harsh and the bleach, bleakness is crystal clear and utterly soul destroying. Phil Méheux oversaw it and I suspect he was thrilled at the result.
So my three top extras. There are not really that many. However what is there is quite good.
1- commentary with actor Ray Winstone and film critic Nigel Floyd. It has been around but it is funny, direct and Winstone never lets you done. Context from Floyd adds to the appreciation.
2 – Interview with cinematographer Phil Méheux. Yes I choose you Mr Méheux. A cinematographer that talks light diffusion, framing and the use of camera with Clarke by his side. It deserves to be heard just for the cinematography aspect alone.
3 – association producer Martin Campbell (2019) Yes he is back. He produced at a tender age and this can be seen as his catalyst to the great series EDGE OF DARKNESS.
Extras – INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES:
- 2013 2K restoration from the original negatives, newly re-graded and approved by cinematographer Phil Méheux
- Original mono audio
- Audio commentary with actor Ray Winstone and film critic Nigel Floyd (2006)
- Interview with actor Mick Ford (2019)
- Interview with actor Ray Burdis (2019)
- Interview with actor Perry Benson (2019)
- Interview with cinematographer Phil Méheux (2019)
- Interview with association producer Martin Campbell (2019)
- Interview with producer Don Boyd (2019)
- Interview with editor Michael Bradsell (2019)
- Cast Memories (2005): featuring interviews with Phil Daniels and Julian Firth
- Archival interview with writer Roy Minton and producer Clive Parsons (2004)
- Archival interview with writer Roy Minton (2005)
- Archival interview with producers Davina Belling and Clive Parsons (2005)
- Archival interview with producer Don Boyd (2005)
- Original ‘U’ and ‘X’ certificate theatrical trailers
- Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
- New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
- Limited edition exclusive 80-page book with a new essay by Ashley Clark, recollections from cast and crew members, archival interviews with Alan Clarke, an extract from writer Roy Minton’s novelisation, a look at Mary Whitehouse’s High Court case over the film’s television broadcast, an overview of contemporary critical responses, archival articles and film credits
- Limited Edition of 5,000 copies
- All extras subject to change