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  • the character of Betts, played by Andrew Paul, was the only inmate seen to be released from the borstal–albeit temporarily–during the controversial British film Scum?

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Directed by Alan Clarke
Produced by Clive Parsons
Don Boyd (executive producer)
Written by Roy Minton
Starring Ray Winstone
Mick Ford
Julian Firth
John Blundell
Phil Daniels
Alan Igbon
Ray Burdis
Distributed by Blue Underground
Release date(s) September 12, 1979
Running time 98 min.
Language English
Budget £6,000

Scum is a 1979 film portraying the brutality of life inside a British borstal. Directed by Alan Clarke, written by Roy Minton and starring, Ray Winstone, Mick Ford, Julian Firth, John Blundell, Phil Daniels, Alan Igbon and Ray Burdis, it tells the story of a young offender named Carlin as he arrives at the institution, and his rise through violence and self-protection to the top of the inmates' pecking order, purely as a tool to survive. Beyond Carlin's individual storyline, it is also cast as an indictment of the borstal system's flaws. The film is violent, with a vicious male rape scene (the victim is a minor) that leads to the suicide of the victim. It features two suicides in total, many fights which are not short on realism and a large amount of racism and strong language. The warders and convicts alike are brutalised by the system. There is no attempt at rehabilitation; the inmates are simply left to their own devices.



The story was originally made for the BBC's Play for Today strand in 1977 but was not shown at the time, although the BBC version has been broadcast since. Two years later director Alan Clarke and scriptwriter Roy Minton remade it as a film, which was then shown on Channel 4 in 1983, by which time the borstal system had been abolished (the British public morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse initially won her court case against Channel 4 for showing the film, but Channel 4 later won on appeal). The original BBC production differed slightly from the remade one. Aside from one or two differences in the cast (Mick Ford and Julian Firth did not play their major supporting roles in the 1977 play, for example - these parts were played by David Threlfall and Martin Philips), the main difference was in a homosexual relationship between Carlin and another inmate, which was in the BBC version but dropped from the later film. Minton later said that this was a pity because it would have expanded Carlin's character and made him vulnerable in an area where he could not afford to be vulnerable.

A special DVD re-release of the film was made in 2005 with the BBC original version added onto the disc as a bonus. A British double DVD "Collector's Edition" was released in 2007 featuring both versions on individual discs (BBC version on disc 1, cinematic version on disc 2) plus commentary tracks for both movies, trailers for the cinematic version and multiple comprehensive cast and crew interviews[1].

Ray Winstone subsequently became an in-demand actors, despite being kicked out of drama school at the time of the Scum auditions and had only gone along to accompany a friend. When Clarke saw Winstone, he cast him as Carlin on the spot because he liked the way he walked. The original intention had been to characterize Carlin as a Glaswegian. The likes of Mick Ford, Julian Firth, Phil Daniels, Ray Burdis, Patrick Murray, Alan Igbon and Andrew Paul all became familiar faces in British television and film after their youthful appearances in Scum.


The film begins with three young men in a vehicle, being driven to a borstal. The three men are Carlin, Angel and Davis. All are handcuffed.

When they arrive at the institution, they are subjected to physical and verbal abuse before being allocated their beds. While Angel and Davis are in single rooms (Angel for his race, as many of the inmates are prejudiced), Carlin is sent to a dormitory where he is ordered by Mr Sands (John Judd) to unpack his possessions and make the bed.

Carlin struggles to settle into the dormitory, having been warned by the senior officer and by highbrow inmate Archer that Banks is in the same room and has already got an eye on him, owing to Carlin's past form as a 'daddy' in institutions. Banks has already victimised the petrified Davis in front of Carlin, and eventually attacks Carlin at night with his stooges. Carlin's black eye earns him a reprimand and solitary punishment for fighting. They also get at Angel by attacking him and trashing his cell, and Davis is tricked into borrowing a radio which is then reported stolen.

Carlin eventually settles down, choosing not to react to the provocation of Banks and his stooges until he can find the right moment. Eventually, he takes over from Banks thanks to a vicious assault on him in the bathroom, leaving him badly cut and dazed, having already smacked Richards, the main batman to Banks, with a sock containing snooker balls. The other inmates accept his new status, as do the staff - reluctantly - especially after Carlin then responds to a challenge from 'Baldy', the 'daddy' of another wing by beating him up in the boilerhouse, yet allowing him to maintain his 'daddy' status, although under his command.

Life improves for the inmates under Carlin, with the victimisation of younger, weaker prisoners coming to a halt. Carlin does, however, reduce the amount of money prisoners can keep from the notes brought in from outside, to establish his credentials. The rest of the time he is content to do his time under less pressure and enjoy Archer's company.

The atmosphere declines when Toyne receives a letter telling him his wife had died, which leads to his attempted suicide when he slashes his wrists. He dies later, after a second attempt, in Wormwood Scrubs prison. That, and the gang rape of Davis in the greenhouse followed by the broken youngster's suicide (and ignored pleas for help from the officers), leads to a huge riot in the dining room under Carlin's direction.

The film ends with the governor informing the prisoners of their forfeiture of privileges until the damage is paid for, and ordering one minute's silent prayer for 'our departed friend'. Nobody, at any point, is released from the institution during the film, and no ending for any inmate - aside from the two deaths - is hinted at.

Important characters


(played by Ray Winstone) A strong character; intelligent, resourceful and dominant, Carlin is incarcerated after taking the rap for his brother (who had numerous convictions) for stealing scrap metal. He arrives at the borstal intent on keeping his head down, having been transferred from another institution for assaulting a warder (he insists that this was in self-defence - "I didn't bang no screw, I retaliated. There was two of them kicking the shit out of me!"). For this reason, the warders are intent on making life as hard for him as possible. He befriends Archer quickly, however, after Archer helpfully informs Carlin on first meeting that his reputation had arrived long before Carlin himself did and that Banks, the 'daddy', would be seeking him out, giving Carlin time to prepare. That said, the warders' deliberate decision to put Carlin in a dormitory with Banks and his honchos, rather than a single cell enables the bullies to give Carlin a thorough late-night beating, and Carlin's black eye earns him a period of time in solitary confinement for fighting. Cleverly, he endears himself to the highly-religious governor by referring to his "comfort" in being Church of England, being polite and courteous - while denying a fight - and never querying punishments.

After a fair amount of abuse and provocation from Banks and his toadies that gets him into even more trouble with the warders, he decides to take over. He does this through a mixture of violence and force of character. In a graphically violent sequence he makes a cosh from a long sock with two snooker balls inside which were picked up from the table in the recreation room as a comprehending Meakin and Angel coolly accept this sudden alteration to their game. Walking into the adjacent sitting room he witnesses a sample of Richards' cynical bullying and proceeds to swing the cosh overarm into his face. The scene is all the more shocking because of its authenticity: it was filmed in one continuous take. The assistant director had to lie on the floor, out of shot and hand Winstone another sock, containing papier mache balls. This scene is more telling to the relationship between Carlin and Archer as Richards is threatening Archer when Carlin arrives. The impact of Carlin's actions scares Eckersley, the other toady in the room. He obeys when Carlin tells him to 'get back, grass' as he tries to escape to warn Banks. Carlin then replaces the balls on the table ("Yeah, well carry on!") before going up to find Banks in the bathroom. Carlin administers a frenetic beating and kicking to the 'daddy' ("Right Banks you bastard, I'm the daddy now - next time I'll fucking kill you!"). He leaves Banks in a bloody mess on the floor of the bathroom. Mr Sands finds him and further assaults him for succumbing to Carlin. The badly-injured Banks is not seen again.

Although Carlin duly becomes the 'daddy' and intends to maintain his position at all costs, he is rather more fair than the boy he usurped. For example, he is never seen abusing the weaker or younger boys to any extent or administering racially-motivated beatings on the black inmates (Banks has done both). He also continues to use Archer's brain and good company to keep him occupied, especially as the two have been assigned to work together in the laundry room. Carlin also gains some better status with the warders, who had previously given him punishments and beatings. He persuades the housemaster to move him from the dormitory to a single cell in return for an agreement to be responsible in his status as a "natural leader".

Another scene has Carlin discussing 'exchange rates' with Dougan, a numerately-intelligent inmate who, as the tea-trolley boy during visiting hours, had been deployed by Banks previously to collect the money brought in for inmates by their relatives. Only loose change is permitted in the borstal. Relatives don't appreciate this and Dougan often finds pound notes hidden under ashtrays. The notes can be exchanged for coins. Banks had given fifty pence in the pound, but Carlin only offers 40p, explaining that he has to give less, in order to assert himself. "It's psychology". He is eventually persuaded into a compromise by Dougan to go up to 45p ("Make it clear I'm doing as a favour: you had to fucking beg me!"). Such attitudes are demonstrably necessary in such an environment, as Carlin must not be seen to be 'soft' - especially given his goodhearted protection of the more vulnerable inmates.

Carlin tries to advise Davis on better ways to keep his head down after Davis is fitted up by Eckersley and placed on report, but ultimately cannot save the youngster from committing suicide. He is, however, subsequently unafraid to show leadership to every inmate by starting the dining room riot in protest at the lack of care and protection from the system shown to Davis.


(played by Mick Ford) Ben Archer is a fish out of water character. Not only is he far more intelligent than the rest of the inmates, he is also vastly more intelligent than any of the screws. Unusually, he is from a middle-class stable, unlike the other prisoners. The governor appreciates this, and therefore often asks Archer about books he may have read during otherwise functional summonses to his office. Incarcerated for stealing money from his employer, Archer has no intention of being a good boy and playing the system. He does not care about getting time off for good behaviour and he tells the newly-arrived Carlin that he wants to serve his time "in my own little way". This way means "causing as much fucking trouble for the screws as possible". For this, he immediately gains Carlin's respect.

Archer is not insolent or violent, just awkward and articulate, and therefore the screws - who are used to applying punishments through violence - have no idea how to deal with him. The dominant inmates, including Banks and his honchos, just assume he is a "weirdo" and leave him alone, although Richards threatens Archer briefly when he tries to stop him victimising the vulnerable youngster Woods. Carlin's arrival with the sock of snooker balls puts a stop to that.

To create stirs and inconvenience, Archer becomes a vegetarian and is put on a special diet ("I get extra potatoes as a substitute for meat and I am allowed fish when on the menu") and refuses to wear leather boots. This means he walks barefoot at all times, including on outdoor exercise marches, until the governor (who, as a religious man, has a policy of respecting individual beliefs) gets some plastic boots for him. Archer's beliefs are entirely self-sacrificial, borne entirely out of creating work for the screws; he has read the rule book and knows that the system has to comply with what he does.

In the borstal system, a Church of England service on a Sunday morning to further the inmates' rehabilitation was part of the regime and attendance was compulsory unless the inmate had a valid reason for excusing himself. Archer refuses to attend and registers himself as an atheist and later a Muslim to exploit this loophole, so a prison officer has to be assigned to watch him on his own. Archer manages to wind up this prison officer as he talks about the "daily humiliation" that the system imposes on both the boys and the men who lock them up. His argument goes completely over the screw's head who sees it as simply an insult ("I give you my fucking coffee and you think you can sit there and have the piss out of me?")

Archer and Carlin are not remotely alike except in a desire to survive and stay strong, and the two become kindred spirits from the first day of Carlin's stay. Assigned to work together in the laundry, they learn more about each other and become solid friends, despite their obvious different outlooks on the system. Archer's relationship with Carlin doesn't change after Carlin's self-elevation to the status of 'daddy', and their camaraderie is summed up when Carlin generously gives him one of his sausages ("Get it down ya, sharpish!") at dinner time while the screws aren't looking. Archer devours it.

Archer is unafraid to protest about the treatment he or others receive; during the cocoa round before lights out, he requests to see the governor when exercise was cancelled because "it looked like rain" - it ultimately didn't rain, which was the crux of Archer's protest (again a tool to cause needless strife for the warders), and he was pushed strongly back into his cell by the screw as a consequence of this remark, hot cocoa spilling all over his clothes and bed. During a group meeting with the matron (the borstal's only female presence), Archer protests about the perpetually petrified Formby's presence at the borstal as he was just 14 years old, and then asks to have a discussion based on the nature of trust, as the inmates were constantly being told to take the trust of the warders and the system on rehabilitating them, while yet being "told at the same time we are totally untrustworthy". Nobody had anything to say.

After the rape and suicide of Davis, the normally peaceable Archer sits next to Carlin as Mr Sands tries to force the inmates to eat their dinner. Archer joins in the riot after Carlin stands up with his tray and begins it. Afterwards, Archer is seen being dragged, bruised and bleeding, into a cell. This is the only time he gets beaten up - crucially not ever by one of the other inmates.


(played by Julian Firth) Davis is one of the three new inmates at the borstal (the other two being Carlin and Angel). He has been sent to the higher security institute because he escaped from a lower maintenance, which he obviously regrets. He is shy, quiet and introverted, keeping to himself. Immediately, he is targeted by the bullies; Banks demands he pays his fee and slaps him in front of Carlin and the other inmates to assure them he is the 'daddy' of the ward; Eckersley then fits him up by lending him his radio and then reporting it stolen.

Davis constantly looks disheartened and scared of his surroundings and is noticeably weaker than the others and his misery grows to its limit when he is raped in a graphic scene by three older and stronger boys whilst on greenhouse duty. Mr Sands, who is passing the greenhouse, sees the rape while peering through the greenhouse window and simply smiles to himself, highlighting the utter immorality and corruption of the system. That evening in the mess, Davis appears shell-shocked although no one mentions it. The newly-married Betts muses that greenhouse duty is almost like a holiday, mentioning to Davis that he will be back on gardening duty the next day, thinking this will cheer him up. In the middle of the night, Davis, having obvious and terrible nightmares, uses his cell's alert buzzer to call the night duty warder Mr Greaves who dismisses him as a time waster and orders him to bed, despite Davis' obvious distressed state. Davis then cuts his wrists with a razor blade while in bed to commit suicide, but seems to change his mind, perhaps due to the unexpected pain. Mr Greaves, thinking that he is merely Crying Wolf, ignores his repeated presses on the alarm bell. In the morning he is inevitably found dead.

Davis' suicide (which had followed that of the bereaved Toyne) causes a stir among the prisoners - including those who raped him, and the toadies of Banks who had previously bullied him - and they go on a hunger strike and later a riot in the mess hall, which leads to the final scenes of the film. The 'ringleaders' of the riot - Carlin, Archer and Toyne's distressed comrade Meakin - are badly-beaten by the warders and thrown into solitary confinement. Later, the governor is shown before an assembly of the other inmates, warning them that the damage to the mess hall will be repaid through lost earnings. He then orders a moment of silence for Davis and Toyne.

The most important part of the ending is when the Governor reminds the inmates 'that sad and unfortunate accidents occur in institutions like this, just as they do outside. We are all accident-prone, even here'. He is clearly making reference to the prisoners who have been beaten by the warders. When convicts beat each other, their official explanation to authority is that 'an accident' happened. This scene is the final, brutal irony: that the system feeds back into itself, effectively silencing, cowing and brutalising both warders and prisoners under a regime which is meant to rehabilitate as well as punish, whilst providing employment supposedly for those individuals willing to support reform.

The television play version of the film features less graphic rape and gory suicide scenes. An additional scene shows Davis trying to talk to Carlin about the incident. Carlin dismisses him when he refuses to talk in front of his 'missus' (partner). He then commits suicide. In the remake, the relationship between Carlin and his 'missus' doesn't feature. Instead, during the mess, Davis looks up at Carlin from the dining table as if about to confide in him, but Carlin unwittingly chooses that moment to get up and leave.


(played by John Blundell) Banks (known to his stooges as 'Pongo') is the antagonistic former "daddy" of the wing that Carlin is sent to. Banks uses strength to bully inmates, including Carlin, who is subjected to a severe beating upon his arrival in the dormitory after Banks was tipped off by warders about Carlin's arrival and history. This and other incidents provoke Carlin to take over as the 'daddy'. After hitting Banks' main toady Richards with a sock containing snooker balls (and threatening his other stooge Eckersley when he tries to run away and warn Banks), Carlin returns to the dormitory area to find Banks in the bathroom, midway through a wash. Carlin dunks Banks' head in the basin and repeatedly punches and kicks him, declaring himself the new 'daddy'. Because of favouritism in the borstal, Mr Sands knows it was Carlin who beat up Banks and Richards and wants Banks to name Carlin as the culprit. However, Banks, bleeding profusely and in obvious pain, is reluctant and insists he 'slipped'. This is a common thread throughout the movie - when violence is discovered by the warders, the victim, who is unwilling to be a rat, does not name the perpetrators, but just claims to have 'slipped,' no matter how much of a state they're in when discovered. Once Banks is admonished by Mr Sands, Richards and Eckersley continue to victimise some of the younger inmates, claiming that Carlin will be released before any of them, and therefore leaving the way open for their return to power. Banks, however, is only seen in the film again at the end when the inmates pray for their dead colleagues (in the television play it's made clear Banks is in hospital, in the theatrical version this is not revealed).


(played by Phil Daniels) Richards is the main stooge in Banks' gang of three, who is just as violent and cruel as the initial 'daddy' himself. He and Banks take equal delight in beating up Carlin in the dormitory but Carlin establishes that Richards is largely a mouthpiece figure and is therefore unafraid to take out Richards before Banks in his quest to become the 'daddy'. Carlin is looking for Banks when he enters the recreation room and takes the snooker balls off the table - the inmates playing the game do not protest - and places them into the sock. When he clatters Richards in the face - at the time Richards was threatening to hurt Carlin's main comrade Archer - Richards' true colours are exposed as he falls to the floor a broken, bleeding, sobbing mess. Afterwards, Richards keeps a low profile as far as Carlin is concerned, though when two younger inmates tease him over Carlin's attack on him, he reminds them that Carlin will be out of the borstal before any of them, and when that happens he'll "carve you two bastards up". It's also clear at this point that Richards has every intention of returning to crime when he is released, as he and Eckersley openly brag about the "big job" they'll do upon release which will set them up for life.


(played by Ray Burdis) Eckersley is an inmate who forms the other third of the gang led by the 'daddy' Banks upon Carlin's arrival at the institution. Although he makes general threats about his facility to be violent, he is mainly a lookout for Banks and Richards - he stands at the door while Carlin gets his dormitory beating - and has devious tricks up his sleeve to get others into trouble, such as lending Davis his radio and then promptly reporting it missing to the warders. Eckersley is, however, a coward, as proved by his petrified act of obedience when Carlin, having just smacked Richards with the snooker ball cosh, orders him to "get back, grass!" when Eckersley tries to escape to warn Banks. Although Eckersley was far away enough from Carlin to disappear and reach Banks, he meekly and timidly sits down again, leaving the way open for Carlin to find Banks for himself and administer the beating which would elevate him to the status of 'daddy'. Eckersley's place in Banks' gang is later exposed as solely a self-survival act, as he is seen joining the less dominant inmates at a counselling and discussion session with the matron, and without Banks or Richards nobody is afraid of him.


Angel (Alrick Riley) is seen with Carlin and Davis at the beginning with the movie and is prominent for the first part of the film. He is given a single cell because of the prejudice against his race prominent in the Borstal. From his first day, he suffers much racial abuse from the inmates and warders and is viciously beaten up by Banks and his honchos. When Mr. Sands finds him, Angel is unwilling to be a rat and simply pretends not to know what Sands is asking him about, only to have a torrent of racial abuse rained down on him by Sands. Angel is in the Borstal for stealing a car (as the car belonged to a white man, Sands is determined to show him "white man's stick") and is new to the system. After returning from his first trip to Solitary confinement, Angel's role diminishes greatly.


(played by Alan Igbon) Meakin, an inmate with a distinctive Mancunian accent, keeps a relatively low profile, and is respected by other inmates. He stays out of trouble, yet knows how useless the borstal system is (sometimes rebelling against the rules), and demonstrates his annoyance at it, and his high level of intelligence, on numerous occasions. In the get-together with the matron, immediately after Archer's questioning of the notion of trust, Meakin asks whether it is permissible for the matron, supposedly a mother figure, to address the inmates by their Christian names (forenames), citing that it is their final reminder of any identity they have. When the matron's answer is negative, Meakin leaves as quickly as possible, refusing to be patronised any further. He is known to be a close friend of Toyne, and when Toyne stabs his wrist and tries to escape, Meakin breaks the barrier further by shouting: "Mr. Sands! Sands! Sands! Move your fucking self!". He is most remembered for his emotional outbreak after learning that Toyne had committed suicide at Wormwood Scrubs ('The Scrubs'), launching a loud verbal attack at the key borstal staff in the room, ending it famously with an obscene two-fingered gesture and shouting "up your fucking borstal!" before walking out. This leaves the staff, and everyone else in the room, dumbfounded. In the dining hall riot, Meakin plays a key role, and is seen afterwards heavily beaten and bloody-faced, being dragged unconsciously by Mr. Greaves, through the corridor and into a cell.


(played by John Fowler) Woods epitomises the uselessness of the borstal system. An illiterate teenager, he has limited maturity but a spirit and idealism prompted by the regular positive letters he receives from home, which he asks Archer to read to him. During the film, he excitedly tells the matron and then his housemaster about his beloved dog's litter of puppies, giving him a reason to look forward to being rehabilitated and returning to normal life, but the reaction of the housemaster (whom he was offering one of the puppies), who tells him to grow up and stop thinking about such infantile matters, brings him crashing down to earth, showcasing the lack of encouragement over their future which the less dangerous criminals in the system - of which Woods was one - were afforded. Woods was bluntly told by the housemaster that he was not making the correct progress, even though the system clearly didn't have any intention to help the inmates make such progress, leaving Woods confused and upset. It is mentioned that Woods' first name is Donald, which could be a reference to South African journalist Donald Woods.


(played by Herbert Norville) Ronald Toyne, a black inmate, is largely a background character who barely speaks through much of the film. However, he comes to prominence suddenly when his wife dies during his internment, and he finds out cruelly and harshly when a letter from her family revealing her death - and her burial - was read to him by the matron, who had not attempted to lessen the blow, as she had assumed that the bereavement was of a family pet because his wife was referred to by her nickname, 'Candy'. (Staff read all incoming mail to the prisoners before deciding whether to pass it on).

He becomes very withdrawn and grief-stricken as a result of this, despite Mr. Greaves saying he's "allowed some fun now and again," when he passes him on the stairs, and his mental anguish is made worse when a fellow inmate is temporarily released to get married. Later, Toyne suffers a mental breakdown and, in a graphic scene, cuts his wrist (running into the borstal's mute, timid, petrified 14 year old inmate Formby in the process, knocking him off his chair) and runs around screaming, feebly trying to escape. He is dragged into an office by the warder, presumably for medical attention. Following this incident he recovers and is transferred to 'The Scrubs'. It is revealed that he finally succeeds in committing suicide, resulting in the emotional outburst from Meakin described above.


(played by Perry Benson) Formby, like Woods, has an epitomising effect as a character, this time showing the simple cruelty of the borstal system. He is the youngest portrayed inmate, at just 14, and duly looks like a child among the teenagers and young adults around him. He is seen in numerous scenes just sitting in the recreation room, looking petrified and desperately unhappy. He wears large spectacles and has an unbroken voice which confirms his pre-adolescent age when, in his only speaking scene - a group discussion with the matron - he asks why he's so far from home (Eckersley unsubtly retorts: "Because you murdered that kid" and gets admonished by the matron, who then also has to scold Archer after he protests about someone aged 14 being in such an institution) and when matron gives a soulless response from the statute book, Formby complains - touchingly and poignantly - that he'd never had a visitor.

His only other contribution comes when Toyne, grieving for his deceased wife, runs amok around the recreation room with his wrists cut and, in the chaos, he crashes into Formby as he yells in agony, knocking him off his chair. Formby is in the borstal because the penal system, according to the matron, has no specialist units for boys of his age. It is quite clear from Formby's immaturity and demeanour that he should not ever have been placed with hardened older criminals when sentenced to custody. His only saving graces are that, presumably due to his age, he is left alone by Banks and the warders - indeed, he is never even referred to by anyone except Eckersley and Archer in the scene with the matron - and also, due to his age, he seems to be exempt from having a prison job, as when Mr Sands instructs everyone to leave the recreation room and get to work, Formby and Toyne (who is about to slash his wrists) stay behind. Mr Sands, while telling Toyne to get up and join his colleagues for work, gives Formby little more than a glance.

Mr. Sands

Mr. Sands (John Judd) is a warder at the borstal and the most prominent. Sands is extremely violent, having no qualms with physically assaulting the inmates or simply ignoring ones who are clearly being assaulted by other inmates. When Carlin arrives at the Borstal, Sands is determined to make his life as hard as possible, due to the fact that he assaulted an officer at his former Borstal. Therefore, when his main weapon, Banks, is defeated by Carlin, he is frustrated and desperately tries to get him to name Carlin. When Banks uses the standard excuse of having "slipped," Sands tries to slap and taunt Carlin into attacking him, to no avail. Later on, Sands witnesses the rape of Davis while peering through the window of the greenhouse in which it is taking place and does nothing but smile to himself. In many ways, Sands represents the cruelty and brutality of the system. He is also a savage racist, as seen when he rains a torrent of racial abuse down on Angel on his first day, saying that "you steal a white man's car, you get white man's stick."

Mr. Greaves

Mr. Greaves, along with Mr. Sands, is one of the most prominent warders at the borstal. While he is not shown to be as violent as Mr. Sands, he is still largely brutalised by the system. For instance, Mr. Greaves is the one who tells Banks about Carlin's arrival at the system. On another occasion, when Carlin is about to respond to a challenge from another "daddy" at the system, he nods to Greaves, who walks away for a few minutes, which indicates that he was aware of what Carlin was about to do. Finally, when Davis suffers some severe nightmares and rings for Greaves, he ignores his obvious mental state and lables Davis a time waster. When Davis rings his bell a second time after cutting his wrists, Greaves looks up to see who is ringing in his office and, when he sees that it is Davis' bell again, he goes back to his newspaper. In many ways, Greaves represents the overall apathy and unhelpfulness of the system.

Mr. Goodyear

Mr. Goodyear is Carlin's housemaster at the borstal. He is often seen alongside the Governor when meeting boys on report. Goodyear is less cruel and somewhat kinder than the warders, as seen when he offers Carlin a position of leadership in the borstal to help him develop his leadership skills. On another occasion, when Meakin is launching into an emotional tirade following the news of the death of his friend, Toyne, Goodyear calmly sits in his seat and listens to it. However, Goodyear shows his true colours when Woods comes in for a meeting about his grades. Woods, who has a large spirit due to his many positive letters from home, offers Goodyear one of his puppies. However, Goodyear brings him crashing down to earth by berating him for his poor grades and lack of effort.

The Governor

The Governor of Carlin's borstal is one of the more prominent characters in the film and is seen everybtime a character is sent to his office on report. The governor is a religious man and is reluctantly tolerant of every inmate's personal beliefs, which Archer continually takes advantage of by pretending to be a vegetarian and an atheist. He is much calmer and less violent than the warders of the prison, as with Mr. Goodyear and the matron, and often talks to Archer about books he may like to read in the future whenever he is sent to his office on report. However, his true colours are shown when Archer casually mentions his false feeling of being "drawn towards Mecca", causing the Governor to react with fury.


Carlin's matron is the only female character in the borstal. She is also shown to be one of the kinder people in the borstal. However, she is, at times, rather patronising. This is seen most prominently when she gives her explanation when Meakin asks her why she never refers to them by their first names. She is also the one who screens the mail before giving it to the inmates, as seen when Toyne asks her to read his letter informing him of his bereavement, to which she responds "I've already read it."

Home media releases

The film was first released on DVD in the UK by Odyssey and Prism Leisure. It was the digitally remastered uncut version but in fullscreen, with only a trailer and an interview as bonus features. The US were treated to an Alan Clarke boxset that included several films, among them both the BBC original and cinema version of the film plus audio commentaries. Prism Leisure released a limited edition 2-disc set in the UK in 2005. Disc One featured the BBC version with an audio commentary and two interviews. Disc Two instead featured the theatrical remake with an audio commentary, several interviews and featurettes and two trailers. It was digitally remastered from a widescreen print. This special edition DVD was sold in amaray slipcase packaging and also in a limited edition tin case. A Region 0 DVD - very similar to that in the Alan Clarke boxset, but this time available separately from other Clarke films - followed in the US, released by Blue Underground.


  1. ^ Scum: 2 Disc Collector's Special Edition, 2007 Quest Media

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