Scum (Blu-ray) (1979)
Theatrical Trailer-The Fury
Theatrical Trailer-Fear City
Theatrical Trailer-The Burning
Theatrical Trailer-City of the Living Dead
|Year Of Production||1979|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Alan Clarke|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 (1920Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.66:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.66:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
"In borstal, survival rules!".
Alan Clarke's 1979 film Scum continues his previous "angry young men" theme as told in This Sporting Life and Saturday Night, Sunday Morning productions from the 1960s. Originally commissioned to be a BBC telemovie, Scum was shelved due to its uncompromising and brutal nature, but was resurrected after the BBC rights lapsed. This allowed Clarke with producers Davina Belling and Clive Parsons to reshoot the movie for theatrical release using most of the original characters. The relatively fresh to film Ray Winstone took the lead role of newly arrived inmate Carlin, with Mick Ford as Archer, the "systems" moral narrator. A talented ensemble of British actors make up the cross section of guards and "trainees" (inmates), with the focus shifting to various characters as the film progresses. Although Carlin is the centre of attention most of the time, other characters are explored, often through the perceptive musings of Archer who is determined to get through his time causing as much irritation to the system as possible. The borstal (juvenile reform school) system is all about conformity and control, with brutality used as the persuasion of choice. The best way to survive was to keep your head down, and to do what you're told. For some inmates however, fighting back was the only option.
Scum opens with the arrival of Carlin, a troublesome inmate transferred from another institution for assaulting a guard after provocation. His history makes him an obvious target for the borstal guards, who single him out as a potential troublemaker. Carlin tries to keep his head down however local "daddy" (gang leader) of the borstal A-wing, "Pongo" Banks (John Blundell) decides to enforce his authority and finally assaults Carlin with the help of his goons. Deciding that he has to fight back to survive, Carlin meets out revenge to Banks and his thugs with the help of a sock filled with eight-balls. Carlin is now the "daddy" of the borstal, and immediately becomes the centre of attention for the guards, especially senior officer of A-wing, Mr Sands (John Judd). The code of silence amongst the trainees means that no allegations of assault or violence are made, however the guards are well aware of what goes on and turn a blind eye unless their authority is threatened. When Davis (Julian Firth) one of the younger inmates is raped in the garden glasshouse by three other boys, the supervisory guard Mr Sands acts as if nothing has happened even though he saw the assault. A riot in the dining room following Davis' suicide shows that when required the guards can be every bit as brutal as the boys. It is clear that the atmosphere of fear and intimidation within the borstal is tolerated as a tool for maintaining overall control.
There is no real plot to Scum, rather a vignette of scenes involving the boredom and intimidation of the inmates, and the callous indifference of the guards. As the voice of reason Archer espouses to all who want to listen the utter banality of the system, with both inmates and their guards sucked into the hopelessness of it all. Characters like Carlin however unconsciously work with the system and even gain privileges by being the "daddy" of the borstal. In doing so he becomes a tool of the guards and a supporter of the system he despises.
Scum is a thought provoking film, and is far from being exploitative of its subject matter as you might think from the title. Whether this portrayal of the borstal system of reform schools is accurate overall is up for conjecture. Anecdotally I've read from actual inmate recollections that some institutions were better than others, and that most of the guards were really quite decent. Nevertheless it is clear that the system in those times was cold and negligent in their care of their young "guests". One could only hope that reforms have been made since then, and that such institutions are now more humane and interested in helping the troubled youth in their care.
Video is presented in the original aspect of 1.66:1 with 1080p high definition resolution using MPEG-4 AVC codec. Pinewood studios have done an outstanding job in cleaning up the original 35mm print. All traces of noise and film artefacts have been removed with little evidence of digital cleaning. As you'd expect this is a grainy print without the clarity of high definition, but the integrity of its 35mm film source is retained. If you look you'll see some edge enhancement, but that would be nit-picking. The film makers colour palette is as dull as the institution's atmosphere with a slightly hazy texture, however this is as intended and is totally appropriate. Skin tones are similarly colourless and pasty, and in the outdoor scenes the British weather is just as grey as the borstal.
The only audio option is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track at around 1700 Kb/s. Being a dialogue based presentation there is not much need for a surround presence and there is no bass to speak of. The dialogue is easy to understand even with the accents, and there are no synchronisation issues or clicks and pops. One thing to note is that there is absolutely no background music or score – just the sounds of activity and the spoken dialogue. This works with the theme of the movie and provides a slightly unsettling feel.
|Surround Channel Use|
Static menu with no audio.
Scum (2:21) - LPCM 2.0 at 1536 Kb/s; The Fury (3:02) - LPCM 2.0 at 1536 Kb/s; Fear City (2:43) - DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 at around 2000 Kb/s; The Burning (1:27) - DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 at around 2000 Kb/s; City of the Living Dead (3:00) - DTS HD Master Audio 5.1.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Region A includes a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track and a host of extras: Commentary with Ray Winstone; Interview with Producers Davina Belling and Clive Parsons; Interview with Writer Roy Minton; Interview with Executive Producer Don Boyd; Interview with Minton and Parsons; "Cast Memories" interviews with actors Phil Daniels, Mick Ford, David Threlfall and Julian Firth; Original Theatrical Trailers. We were dudded badly in the local release so seek out Region A if you can.
Scum is being labelled as a "cult classic", but it is really more thoughtful than that suggests. It is grim and uncompromising, but not gratuitous or exploitive. As a document of the attitudes and times towards young and often troubled offenders it is well worth a look.
The video quality is excellent given the source.
The audio quality is good and adequate for the content.
Extras are poor.
|DVD||Cambridge Audio 751bd, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic TH-58PZ850A. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).|
|Amplification||denon AVR-4311 pre-out to Elektra Theatron 7 channel amp|
|Speakers||B&W LCR600 centre and 603s3 mains, Niles in ceiling surrounds, SVS PC-Ultra Sub, Definitive Technology Supercube II Sub|