Follow TV Tropes


Film / Scum

Go To

Scum is a 1979 British film directed by Alan Clarke, originally based off of a 1977 BBC Play for Today. In 2010, the film was remade by Kim Chapiron, under the title Dog Pound. The following page covers tropes appearing in all three versions.

The film is very notable for several reasons:

  1. The BBC Teleplay and film both starred Ray Winstone, and essentially launched his career.
  2. Though not an actual "Video Nasty", Mary Whitehouse was successful in her private prosecution in the High Court case against Channel 4 for showing the film. (Channel 4 later won an appeal, however) Because of this, Scum frequently shows up under video nasty lists, despite not actually being one. Part of the reason for all the controversy was because of how extraordinarily violent the film was, as well as its brutal depictions of racism and harsh language, particularly for Thatcher-era Britain.
  3. Though without the violence and general extremity of its remake, the original 1977 teleplay did have one thing that many modern audiences will find particularly surprising given the time period it was made in: a homosexual relationship between Carlin and another inmate. Granted, the relationship wasn't exactly positive, but still.

That said, the main gist of the film(s) is something like this:

Three thugs, Carlin (Butch in Dog Pound), Davis, and Angel, are all taken into custody and brought to a good ol' British Borstal (an American Juvenile Correctional Facility in Dog Pound). What they proceed to discover is that where they have been sent is in fact a Wretched Hive of racism, violence, and corrupt wardens/officers. And that's just the beginning. From then on, it gets worse. Much, MUCH worse.

When listing the tropes, everything appears in all three versions, unless otherwise noted.

Tropes appearing in Scum/Dog Pound:

  • Adaptational Sexuality: Carlin's homosexual relationship was dropped from the film. Roy Minton later said that this was a pity as it would have expanded Carlin's character and made him vulnerable in an area where he could not afford to be vulnerable.
  • Anti-Hero: Carlin. He's a juvenile deliquent, but he has a sense of nobility and is far from the worst person in the prison.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Present both in Scum and Dog Pound.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Carlin does not fight fair, and most of his victories come from taking people by surprise and/or using improvised weapons.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Everyone says "I fell" or "I tripped" when they're asked how they got hurt. Nobody actually believes it, though Carlin does manage a slightly more convincing version when he tells the governor that he "wasn't used to the stone steps", but "can see why [the guard] thought he'd been fighting".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Archer fits this perfectly. He frames his snarks more politely than normal for this trope to avoid provoking the guards, but his observations can be very cutting.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Carlin is this in the original BBC Teleplay. However, while he is extremely violent and domineering, it is not directly linked to his sexuality.
  • Driven to Suicide: Davis. It apparently happens with some frequency.
  • Fanservice: For some viewers, Dog Pound was definitely this. You get to see Spinner, almost completely naked!
  • Gentleman Snarker: Archer is not exactly a gentleman, but he is very polite and never directly insults anyone. This doesn't stop his observations from striking right at the heart of the system.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: One memorable scene in Scum has one of the guards give Archer his coffee and actually engage in a serious conversation with him. Unfortunately, Archer oversteps the intelligence and tolerance of the guard, and his argument against the entire system is taken as a personal insult.
  • Gorn: For the era, the theatrical 1979 version of Scum was this. Even now, the blood is still rather.... copious.
  • Groin Attack: Carlin's favourite combat tactic.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: During the beginning of Dog Pound, the viewers are treated to all three male leads essentially naked, save for them cupping their privates with their hands. Justified, however: they are being checked into a Juvenile Correctional Facility, and would need to be strip-searched.
  • Handsome Lech: Max and (probably/hopefully) Davis in Dog Pound, Archer in Scum to a lesser extent.
  • Hate Sink: While all the "screws" (prison guards) are horrible people who definitely fall under this, Sands really takes the cake, as he is shown to be nothing more than a sadistic, apathetic and repulsive human being who represents the very worst of prison wardens. Throughout the film, he regularly abuses his authority over the inmates, finding excuses to either yell at them or physically abuse them to satisfy his own sadism, and he is also racist, best shown in one scene, where he racially abuses a black inmate for no reason whatsoever. He really crosses it, however, where later on he watches Davis getting raped by three inmates with a sadistic grin on his face and doesn't even step in to stop them. Even after discovering Davis killed himself, he shows zero remorse for his actions, and continues his abuse and power-tripping over the inmates.
    • There's also Banks, a bully and sadistic ringleader who picks on and even beats up other prisoners for no reason, other than to make them fear him and show them he's "The Daddy". Karma catches up to him when Carlin beats the living shit out of him, resulting in him being sent to hospital.
    • Finally we have James and his two friends, who take turns raping Davis, resulting in him committing suicide.
  • Hellhole Prison: Well, duh. The young inmates have to put up with vicious prison politics, poor facilities, rape, and abuse from the screws.
  • Implausible Deniability: "I slipped"
  • Improvised Weapon User: One of the reasons Carlin is such a dangerous fighter is that he doesn't hesitate to use things like iron bars and a sock filled with snooker balls.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Played with. Archer is generally a loner, and it is because he is more intelligent, but it's not because the others shun him due to his cleverness; he deliberately stays away from other people and pretends to be slightly crazy in order to avoid the endemic violence.
  • Intoxication Ensues: In Dog Pound, Davis takes some crack (?) believing it to be cocaine. While intoxication does ensue, unlike most versions of this trope, hilarity most definitely does NOT ensue.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Butch in Dog Pound. Although not a jerk, he is a violent criminal but he's easily a character with the most redeeming qualities and even assaults people who do terrible things to several inmates for no reason.
  • Karma Houdini: Davis' rapist(s) in both versions of Scum. Not so in Dog Pound, though.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: in Dog Pound, this is Goodyear's reaction to accidentally killing Angel.
  • No Ending: The original 1979 version, which borders on being a Downer Ending. All the prisoners, including Carlin, start a riot in the prison after finding out about Davis' suicide, however they are all beaten and thrown back in their cells. Then the scene cuts to an assembly with all the prisoners as the warden speaks to them all, then the credits roll.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Mess with Carlin/Butch, and you're in for a world of hurt.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Archer's coping tactic. It ensures the hard men leave him alone and he gets a relatively quiet life.
  • Pet the Dog: When Carlin takes over as prison daddy, victimisation of younger, weaker prisoners is prevented, along with racially-motivated violence.
  • Prison Rape/Rape as Drama: Davis is gangraped by James, Smith, and Chambers.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Winstone himself has mentioned during filming he thought much of the juvenile facility slang was invented for the script, and was surprised to learn it was all real.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: In Dog Pound, Goodyear... eventually.
  • Situational Sexuality: As in most prison settings, it seems likely that many of the men who engage in homosexual activities are only doing so because of the absence of women.
  • The Smart Guy: Archer's intelligence is so far above all the other inmates and guards that nobody is quite sure what to do with him, especially since he isn't actually violent or insolent.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: In Dog Pound, most of the students seem to find Miss Biggs quite attractive. Despite Davis's story, however, the feeling is NOT mutual.
  • Title Drop:
    Sands (to Carlin): You'll get three years for this, scum!
  • Violent Glaswegian: Averted, due to casting. Originally, Carlin was intended to be from Glasgow, but the director was so impressed with Ray Winstone's audition, that he dropped that and cast him.
  • Working on the Chain Gang: Sort of. Nobody is actually chained together, but they do do manual labour while huddled close.
  • Wretched Hive: The facility the boys are sent to.
  • You Rebel Scum!: For the first two versions. It's right there in the title.