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13 October 2011

Scum (1979)

The rules:
No punching to the face
No kicking in the goolies
And no biting

Wot me sir?
Scum, Blue Underground 1979

When I was growing up, Borstal was one of those places that I knew existed, but never really wanted to find out what it was all about. I heard of people being sent there, but most of it was friend-of-a-friend stuff. I guess I believed all the urban myth of the time.

Borstal was effectively a prison for kids too young to go to prison. But I think you only got sent there if you were really bad. It had a reputation for handling the head-cases and for fighting fire with fire.

Scum is set in a Borstal in the late 70s.

It's a hard film.

Even the DVD menu is hard!

What do you mean you're f**king deaf!
Scum, Blue Underground 1979

I remember when I first saw this film. I thought it was great! There we were marching around the school playground telling each other that we were the f**king daddy. Oh, happy days!

There are so many iconic scenes that it's hard not to love the film. But I don't love all of it. As well as the rebel-rousing screw-the-system scenes, there are also some really horrible bits that I find as hard to watch today as I did the first time round.

Trouble is brewing
Scum, Blue Underground 1979

One thing that I struggle with today is the racism. I know it's still with us, but I shudder at some of the language and attitudes expressed in the film. It seems extreme, but I'm sorry to say that it is a fair representation of the era. Good riddance!

So what's the film all about?

Carlin (played by the hard-deaded and incredibly youthful Ray Winston) arrives at Borstal with a reputation. He tries to keep his head down, but he's got a face for trouble. The first half of the film is like a pressure-cooker. It builds and builds, and you just know it's going to pop. Carlin doesn't disappoint and once he makes his move, there's no doubt who 'the Daddy' is.

Archer bucks the system
Scum, Blue Underground 1979

My favourite lines in the whole film are the ones where Carlin's been summoned to fight the Daddy of 'D' Block (played by the mean-looking Peter Francis).
Carlin: Where's your tool?
Baldy: What f**king tool?
<Whack>
Carlin: This f**king tool!
Whilst it's easy to get carried away on the tide of anger and angst, the film never loses its sense of bleakness.

Carlin has a beanie
Scum, Blue Underground 1979

Is the final message that the System always wins?

Yeah, it probably is.

But it doesn't stop people from trying to beat it!

There are a few other semi-famous faces to look out for in the cast. The most recognisable is probably Phil Daniels of Quadrophenia and Blur fame. What a toe-rag!

This is a must-watch film.

On the Triple-B I'm going to fill a sock with 8 pool balls then go looking for Pongo! Yeah well, carry on...



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