Genre Grandeur – Scum (1979) – Emma K. Wall

For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Prison Films, here’s a review of Scum (1979) by

Thanks again to Jay of Life Vs. Film for choosing this month’s genre.

Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Ryan of Ten Stars or Less.  We will be reviewing our favorite Boston Film(s).

According to Ryan’s research, this is probably the best list of movies set in Boston

Here is what appears to be the official/unofficial list of everything related to Boston movies

Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Apr by sending them to

Try to think out of the box! Great choice Ryan!

Let’s see what Emma thought of this movie:


Two British classics! Kind of. One British classic and another British….film.

Thanks to MovieRob for his usual tireless efforts in hosting another (great) Genre Grandeur and thanks to Jay from Life Vs Film for choosing such a cool genre as this month’s topic – prison films.

Now I have a bit of an obsession with prison stuff. Documentaries, autobiographical books, Banged Up Abroad…..and of course, prison movies. Love them. That’s why I had to review two.

Here’s the second one…

Scum (1979)

Scum is actually one of my favourite films. Probably even top 10. Though it’s hard viewing at times and has a particularly harrowing, brutal story. It’s set in a boys borstal during the 1970s and shows basically (to cut a long story short) how unspeakably awful the places were. I’m sure detention centers are still fairly depressing places when they want to be but it’s hard to imagine them being a fraction as bad as they’re depicted in Scum where the weak don’t stand a chance. Violent and racist prison guards. Bullying which escalates to horrific extremes (and is inflicted by guards as well as the cons). And of course there’s the plain fact that no real ‘help’ is ever offered to the young offenders, rehabilitation is a faint dream and to be honest they’re barely even acknowledged as human beings at all.

I’m not sure if Scum is a film everyone would enjoy. It’s quite ‘old’, it’s a little bit grainy. It looks like it never cost that much to make. And it’s awfully violent, has fake blood that looks touch-a-nerve realistic and of course the infamous ‘greenhouse scene’ (which FYI I always fast forward). It’s a little bit hard to cheerfully advertise it.

But among all the depression and darkness there is some fun as well. A young Ray Winstone stars as hard-nut main character Carlin and comes with his own heap of (now famous) amusing one liners. The dialogue generally is excellent, the script was originally written as a television play in 1977 but deemed too violent to air, only released as a movie in 1979 when it was said that borstals had “reformed”. Another fun thing is picking out all the British actors who starred in the film barely out their teens and went on to become the more well known faces we recognise today. Okay there’s more of “he was in The Bill” than “yeah and he won that Oscar” but it’s still fun spotting them.


2 thoughts on “Genre Grandeur – Scum (1979) – Emma K. Wall

  1. Pingback: Genre Grandeur March Finale – White Heat (1949) – Life Vs. Film |

  2. Pingback: Double prison movie review: Scum (1979) and Mean Machine (2001) | emmakwall (explains it all)

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