Nearly three decades after it was first made, the original banned BBC TV version of SCUM starring Ray Winstone, David Threlfall, and Phil Daniels has been released as part of a special collectors' edition from Odyssey Quest, that will also include the equally notorious 1979 film version.
The Collectors Edition includes a number of compelling extras including commentaries from producer Margaret Matheson the producer of the TV version, Phil Daniels and David Threlfall, and interviews with Derek Malcolm and Margaret Matheson on the television version. The theatrical version includes a commentary from Ray Winstone (exclusive to the UK), and interviews with Clive Parsons, Davina Belling and Don Boyd. A limited edition will be packaged in a brand new steel book format.
Both versions of this disturbing and highly controversial drama were directed by the brilliantly innovative Alan Clarke (Made in Britain, The Firm, Rita, Sue and Bob Too). Written by Roy Minton (Scrubbers), the original television version was made in 1977, but its brutal depiction of life in a boys' borstal was deemed so uncompromising and controversial that it was pulled from transmission and was not broadcast until 1991, one year after Clarke's death, when it was finally screened on British television as part of a season on the theme of censorship. The film version of SCUM had been screened by Channel 4 in 1983 with scarcely any complaint until Mary Whitehouse, a crusader against sex and violence on tv, took the IBA to judicial review for allowing its transmission without a referral to the whole Authority.
SCUM focuses on two borstal inmates who take different approaches to 'beating the system' where verbal, sexual and physical abuse, intimidation, racism, homophobia and anarchy are all rife. Carlin, played by Ray Winstone in his first lead role, has a reputation for violence from a previous borstal, and fights his way to the top, earning him the title of 'Daddy'. The non-violent Archer, played by David Threlfall in the television original and by Mick Ford (Big Bad World, Fish) in the film version, makes it his mission to be as awkward as possible whilst serving his sentence. The borstal system seems to encourage the 'Daddy' system as a way of maintaining order whilst Archer's style merely fuels resentment. Phil Daniels stars as the cowardly bully Richards.
SCUM's director Alan Clarke is regarded as one of the greatest of British film-makers. Radical and innovative, his early career was shaped by the BBC 'Play for Today' series. During his career he only directed three films specifically for cinematic release, the bulk of his prolific output being made for television. His best work concerned the exposure of injustice towards the most despised and neglected groups in society. With its powerful theme both versions of SCUM are as disturbing to watch and as relevant today as when they were made.