For its 40th anniversary Powerhouse Film’s Indicator line presents Alan Clarke’s Scum on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on this dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation is sourced from Euro London’s 2012 2K restoration of the film, scanned from the 35mm original camera negative. Though a UK release the disc is region free, despite there being a release in North America from Kino Lorber.
Scum is by no means a pretty looking film: it’s dirty and grimy, about as dreary as a film of its subject matter probably should be. Despite all of this what we get is still a solid looking digital presentation, as clean and as film-like as it probably can be on the format. Colours are muted and primarily limited to grays and browns (with the odd bright red), but they’re saturated well and they’re clean (the notes for this presentation mention grading was done under the supervision of director of photography Phil Méheux). Black levels are also superb, being deep but still allowing details to show through. Outside of a handful of minor marks the restoration work has really cleaned up imperfections.
And as suggested earlier, yes, the digital presentation looks great. There is a nice film texture to the image, with it never looking digital or processed. It’s a grainy film but it’s rendered cleanly with no noise or blocking patterns appearing, which also leads to exceptional detail levels (when the source allows). It’s a sharp looking presentation and it barely shows its age at all. 9/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
Indicator’s limited edition is loaded with material, both new and old, and they have gone far out of their way to gather interviews with as many people as possible who were involved with the film. They first port over the audio commentary recorded for a 2006 DVD edition, featuring actor Ray Winstone talking about the film with critic Nigel Boyd. Despite some dead spots sprinkled about the track covers a lot of ground when getting into its production history, the actual filming, and the social and political context found within the film. Winstone does go over the original BBC production (that was initially banned) and makes some comparisons between the two, both in terms of finished product and what it was like making them, going over Clarke’s directing style for both. At a point Boyd does ask Winstone whether he is still proud of the film and he responds that he is, hoping that it at least stopped one kid from ending up in of these juvenile institutions. Boyd seems to be there more to keep Winstone going but the two keep things interesting and Winstone is a hoot to listen to on here, as he rarely checks himself, as I would expect.
Indicator then has a section devoted to cast and crew interviews, which are newly recorded for this edition. The interviews include actors Mick Ford (19-minutes), Ray Burdis (15-minutes) and Perry Benson (11-minutes), director of photography Phil Méheux (18-minutes), associate producer Martin Campbell (9-minutes), executive producer Don Boyd (31-minutes), editor Michael Bradsell (30-minutes), and casting agent Esta Charkham (22-minutes). I sort of wish that maybe these were all edited together into one documentary, as you get bits and pieces about the film (and the original BBC film), its production and Clarke. The actors recall being cast and the difficulty of shooting, with Benson talking a bit about material that did not make it into the finished film. Boyd and Campbell give some backstory to how the rights for the film were picked up and why there was a desire to remake it, while Charkham talks about the casting choices that were made. I found Bradsell’s and Méheux’s contribution the most interesting: Méheux talks about getting a different look with this film, going for a more realistic “documentary” look, while Bradsell explains how Clarke really left it open to edit the film thanks to how he filmed everything, and recalls the difficulties of editing the film’s latter rape scene. There’s a lot of material spread out between the interviews and it’s all wonderful, but if I had one complaint (and it is a minor one in the end) it would be that I still would have appreciated a more linear edit of all of this material together. Still, the producers really went all out in gathering everyone they could and the amount of material here is staggering.
Indicator then ports over several interviews that appeared on previous DVD and Blu-ray editions, which they put under archive interviews. In here you find a 16-minute interview featuring Roy Minton and Clive Parsons, a solo interview with Minton (19-minutes), another with Davina Belling and Parsons (8-minutes), another with Don Boyd (12-minutes) and then one that’s simply labeled ”cast memories” featuring actors Phil Daniels, David Threllfall, Mick Ford, and Julian Firth (16-minutes). A couple of the actors worked on both film versions and cover that here, and the other interviews go a little more into the original BBC version and the difficulties they had to deal with in getting the rights (eventually they just had to wait for the BBC to lose them) and even dealing with the censors when it came to this new theatrical version (Boyd was also very willing to release the film is garnered an X rating). We also learn about some of the decisions behind the changes between the two film versions: there was a desire to make a more adult film aimed at adult audiences, while they also wanted to inject some more humour since it was felt a film as glum as the original Scum would be too much for audiences trapped in a theater.
What’s most impressive about all of this material is that there is actually very little repetition. Yes, some things get repeated (like the common theme of newcomers were not shown the BBC version of the film as to not influence their decisions, whether it be one of the actors or one of the production team) but it really is very little.
Indicator then includes two trailers: the unrated trailer (which is basically a 30-second tease stating how it can’t show you any of the shocking material from the film), and then the X-rated trailer (which shows actual material from the film, though isn’t as salacious as it tries to sell itself). The disc then closes with a fairly large image gallery, featuring over 80-photos: black and white production photos, along with colour ones, and then some posters).
I only received a check disc and a PDF file for the booklet, so I don’t have my hands on the actual edition, but it is being released as a box set, which includes a poster and an 80-page booklet. The booklet is full of content, first starting with an essay by Ashley Clark, followed by excerpts from an oral history on the making of the film (which includes quotes from Winstone, Parsons, Belling, Daniels, and others, along with quotes on Clarke by Gary Oldman and Tim Roth). Following this is a reprinting of an “on-set report” written for The Guardian in 1979 by Michael Billington, who obviously had a lot of access to the set and Clarke while he was there, and then photos of producer Michael Relph’s notes on the production, making a few suggestions. The booklet then goes over the controversies the film version faced, including a banning by a local authority (and the fight that ensued), and how veteran campaigner Mary Whitehouse went after the Independent Broadcasting Authority for allowing an airing of the film on television. There is then a small section on a novelization of the film (with the British spelling of “novelisation” of course) and then another featuring blurbs from reviews for the film, which are least mixed here (Vincent Canby, for example, had trouble with cultural differences).
In all it’s a very impressive collection of material, with the booklet just being the icing on the cake. Despite some minor issues I had (like me wishing the new interviews were all edited together to make a feature documentary of some sort) I can’t think of anything else I could have wanted, and at times I felt almost overwhelmed by everything here. 10/10