Scum Alan Clarke

There are two ways to see Alan Clarke’s vision of juvie hell: the one that hits like a club, or the one that cuts like a knife. Both versions feature a young Ray Winstone as the "daddy” of a British boy’s prison that’s run by a religious nut, administered by bigoted thugs, populated by confused and angry young men, and moved by a vicious streak that nobody has the power to stop. The first, however, is the notorious BBC telefilm version, which embarrassed the "powers that be” enough to get itself banned from broadcast; the second is the somewhat better capitalised on film version, which contrasts the original’s grimy brown interiors with a more hospital white vehicle of pain. But no matter which one you prefer, its laundry list of human suffering offers a series of degradations that leave everybody tarnished and the idea of just punishment revealed as the pathetic farce it is. Winstone is transfixing in both versions as the victim who won’t say die, working his violent way up to the master of his wing just to make sure he has what little stature he can muster; it all ends in one of the great prison riot scenes and offers an editorial dialogue between a "screw” and an inmate that underlines the madness of the rules of the game. The films are two of the best by perhaps the finest British filmmaker since Hitchcock. Extras on the TV version include a giggly commentary by cast members David Threlfall and Phil Daniels with producer Margaret Matheson, and selected scene commentary by Winstone. The theatrical version features an awed Winstone commentary, a so-so interview with writer Roy Minton and producer Clive Parsons, poster and still galleries, and the theatrical trailer. (Blue Underground)