Friday, March 12, 2010

SCUM - (1979) - Alan Clarke


It's no surprise that with all his free-flowing aggression, the angry young man will occasionally find himself locked in cuffs and on the way to juvie. That's where we first meet Carlin (a baby-faced Ray Winstone), en route to a gulag-like British borstal after being tossed out of his last one for locking heads with one of the screws.

Carlin may have been a detention center superstar at the last place, but at the new borstal he's just another scumbag. This means he's due for a verbal dressing-down by the Governor and guards upon arrival and then a violent beat-down by the prevailing borstal "Daddy" soon after. But Carlin's got ambition, with designs on becoming "Daddy" himself. Not content with his new chum Archer's peaceful protest methods, Carlin takes the shorter route to autonomy -- a pair of pool balls dropped in a sock and smashed over the resident Daddy's head.

Pretty soon, Carlin's running the show, cutting deals with the screws and giving the weaker prisoners protection. He may be a kinder, gentler Daddy, but that doesn't mean there won't be the occasional rape here or the occasional suicide there. It's no fun being Daddy when Mother Governor still wears the pants.

This is the first of several angry young Brit flicks I'll be watching by director Alan Clarke, a BBC TV director who gave a start to some great Brit talent -- Ray Winstone, Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, to name a few. The Scum I saw is the theatrical version uncut by the BBC. While harrowing and well-acted, it still feels a little like a TV movie, the whiff of exposé dulling the proceedings a tad.

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