Alan Clarke viewing notes (1967–1990)

Nick Wrigley
Mar 24, 2014 · 21 min read

Working solidly — from his TV directorial debut in 1967 through to his untimely death in 1990 — there wasn’t a year where Clarke didn’t make a film. These viewing notes are a work in progress…

1.) “The Arrangement”

Episode 8 (of 13) of THE GOLD ROBBERS (Directed by Alan Clarke, written by Eric Colthart. Transmission date: 25th July 1969, ITV (London Weekend Television), 52 minutes)

This is the earliest Alan Clarke directed work I’ve been able to locate so far. Clarke clearly a gun for hire (one episode of a 13-part ITV series) and although the script doesn’t leave much room for him to get too creative, I imagine he had to shoot it in a style that complemented the other episodes. The great Peter Vaughan stars as DCS Cradock, tasked with tracking down and smoking out a group of thieves who stole £5.5m of gold from an airstrip in the South of England.

Almost entirely studio-shot, the slightly dull plot of this episode follows Vaughan in his office, in a snooker club (to which he keeps returning) to bring people in for questioning, and at the flat of his bit on the side — from where he keeps getting called back to his office and the snooker club just as they’re about to loosen up with a bottle of wine. The tone is proto-Sweeney (the original TV series), and by all accounts was “quite tough” for its time — I can imagine. There’s a rancorous anti-police odour in almost every scene. Dripping in 1969 London, the clothes, hair, decor, language of this series is a rare time capsule of a great period at the end of the 1960s that was about to be blasted away by worse hair, worse clothes, worse music, and cocaine.

Viewing source: Official Network release, as part of their 4 x DVD set THE GOLD ROBBERS. Like the official Acorn Media release of THE EDWARDIANS, it seems to have been shot in colour but the episodes are average quality B&W (all the grabs on the back of the box are misleadingly in colour).

Further notes: A nice, threatening turn by Donald Webster as “Tilt”. He went on to star in Peckinpah’s STRAW DOGS (1971), Huston’s THE MACKINTOSH MAN (1973) and the British TV series CALLAN, THE PROTECTORS, and THE SWEENEY.

2.) The Last Train Through Harecastle Tunnel

(Directed by Alan Clarke, written by Peter Terson. Transmission date: 1st October 1969, BBC1, The Wednesday Play, 78 minutes) Full synopsis from BFI Screenonline here.

Clarke’s first longer work (78 minutes) is Peter Terson’s fascinating, eccentric account of a twentysomething trainspotter — London officeworker Fowler (Richard O’Callaghan) — spending a weekend heading up to Staffordshire to be among the last to ride through a condemned railway tunnel. The mostly searing socialist dialogue wallpapers a number of eccentric characters so stereotypical their cumulative effect is one of mild dysfunctional horror (racist old railway worker (the brilliant Joe Gladwin); his son, a raging queen (Griffith Davies); Fowler’s prattish upperclass co-workers (one of which is the unforgettable Paul Brooke); and crazy railway points designer (John Le Mesurier) who has fullsize replica points in his mansion). Running throughout is (the then contemporary) Kinks’ song “Last of the Steam-powered Trains” from THE KINKS ARE THE VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY (November 1968) which helps reaffirm the film’s overall sense of enthusiasm and love for a dying pastime/way of life — and the extreme obsessions it cultivated. The film ends with an unsavoury hint of paedophilia, which felt like an unnecessary attempt by Terson to pile on even more dysfunction. Tightly directed by Clarke, a surprising, unusual, and still fresh-feeling early work — already shot through with many of his own obsessions.

Memorable lines: “All that remains, in the end, is what was built…” / “I think that circumstances dictate opinion and your attitude to people.”

Other notes: Wouldn’t be surprised if one character’s racism is preventing a constipated BBC from reshowing this. The cost of licensing the Kinks track is probably preventing a DVD edition.

Viewing source: A rough, timecoded DVD-R with yellowy green tinge.

3.) Sovereign’s Company

(Directed by Alan Clarke, written by Don Shaw. Transmission date: 22nd April 1970, BBC1, The Wednesday Play, 80 minutes)

Exceptionally well-made/written/acted 80-minute play about a group of cadets at Sandhurst Royal Military Academy. Centring on the pacifist grandson of a Major who would rather not be there, he ends up — compelled by pack mentality and previous perceptions of cowardice — beating a yob almost to death. Extraordinarily well cast (Clive Francis’s punchably supercilious Dexter a far cry from his ‘Joe the lodger’ a year later in Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE). Clarke keeps it all very focused, and the whole piece reminded me of Anderson’s IF… (1968) and Kubrick’s FULL METAL JACKET (1987). Very cohesive and sure-footed — a great early Clarke. Needs to be remastered in HD and given a new lease of life.

Viewing source: Good quality DVD-R, original film elements quite damaged in places though. Reels roughly edited together with leader and one instance where a minute of footage is erroneously repeated. No timecode, audio strangely all in the left channel (which didn’t matter because it’s mono).

4.) The Hallelujah Handshake

(Directed by Alan Clarke, written by Colin Welland. Transmission date: 17th December 1970, BBC1, Play for Today, 75 minutes)

Starting in 1970, Leigh-born actor and Oscar-winning screenwriter Colin Welland wrote a number of interesting plays including this BBC Play for Today — filmed after he’d acted in KES (1969) and before appearing in STRAW DOGS (1971). Also in 1970, he wrote ROLL ON FOUR O’CLOCK, featured as part of ITV’s Sunday Night Theatre, and in which Welland also acted (my father sang and played the music for it). Welland’s diverse career began in teaching, saw him hosting the bizarre British TV science show HOW TO STAY ALIVE, acting in THE SWEENEY, and going on to great success writing YANKS (1979) and CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981), for which he won an Oscar.

Clarke handpicked actor Tony Calvin to play the peculiar Henry Jones in THE HALLELUJAH HANDSHAKE, a brilliant study of how one lonely man’s overzealous nature, inability to fit in, and petty thieving make everyone around him uncomfortable and convinced he’s dangerous. Henry volunteers for everything at the local congregation, particularly keen for it to be known that he has lots of experience working with “young people”. He’s welcomed with open, yet watchful, arms — and embarks upon enthusiastically refereeing football matches, over-hugging young children, marshalling youth day trips which go on far too late, delivering inappropriate hellfire sermons to infants, offering over-the-top gifts (that he’s pinched) to those in positions of power, etc. It’s a catalogue of uncomfortably inappropriate behaviour, beautifully acted, carefully pitched, frequently hilarious, but ultimately deeply heartfelt and sad.

Another great early Clarke. Needs to be remastered in HD and given a new lease of life.

Viewing source: Timecoded DVD-R, which looks to be from VHS. Watchable.

Further notes: Queenie Watts has a small role.

5.) Under The Age

(Directed by Alan Clarke, written by E. A. Whitehead. Transmission date: 20th March 1972, BBC2, Thirty Minute Theatre, 30 minutes)

This spare, dialogue-led half-hour play with a cast of six is entirely set in a quiet, grotty central Liverpool pub during a rainstorm. A Scouse Samuel Beckett affair — the two Angelis brothers (Paul & Michael) and writer Edward Whitehead were from Liverpool, Clarke was from Seacombe, Wallasey.

It revolves around Susie (superbly played by Paul Angelis) — a very sharp-tongued, brutish, make-up wearing pub landlord capable of giving tremendous backchat. Mike and Jack (Michael Angelis and Stephen Bent) arrive out of the rain to have a quick pint in this empty boozer they don’t normally frequent. Susie takes a shine to Mike. Two women shortly appear out of the rain and throw Susie’s plans.

Must have been like nothing else when broadcast on BBC2 in 1972. The dialogue is sharp and cutting and the whole thing feels like Clarke’s completely in his element. Strange, perhaps minor, but very good on many levels.

Viewing source: Timecoded DVD-R, which looks to be from VHS. Very watchable.

Further notes: I wondered where it was supposed to be set. At one point, whilst discussing whether to have another pint, Mike and Jack say “let’s go to Lime St”, which is the railway station in the centre of Liverpool, and suggests they’re within walking distance of it.

6.) Horace

(Directed by Alan Clarke, written by Roy Minton. Transmission date: 21st March 1972, BBC2, 90 minutes (imdb’s “75 minutes” is wrong))

Clarke had worked with Roy Minton a number of times in the late 1960s but always for ITV (THE GENTLEMAN CALLER, GOODNIGHT ALBERT, STAND BY YOUR SCREEN). HORACE was their first BBC project together. It was so well liked at the time that it was picked up for a 6-part series on Yorkshire TV, written by Minton, also starring Barry Jackson as Horace (but not involving Clarke).

Set in Yorkshire (filmed around Halifax), diabetic Horace is mentally disabled and works in the back of a joke shop. He lives with his Mother, collects eggs from his own allotment for her, and takes his neighbour a hot cocoa at night. Jaunty, happy music (like The Shaggs playing The Shadows) follows Horace on his travels. He befriends unhappy loner schoolboy, Gordon Blackett (non-professional 14-year old Stephen Tantum, never acted again) who is unhappy at home and wants to run away to live with the gypsies (even though he doesn’t know where the gypsies might be). Upon learning that his mother wants him to live with her sister while she goes off with a new fella to live elsewhere, Gordon does run away. Horace tags along — not too keen, as he’s heard that gypsies eat hedgehogs — … and so on, you get the idea.

A fascinating, unusual, memorable character study with some fantastic dialogue. A different tone to a lot of Clarke’s work, quite gentle — good Sunday night fare (and from the writer of SCUM!)

I really liked HORACE.

Viewing source: Pinked out film, with blown highlights. Looked like a videocamera recording of a projection. That makes it sound terrible, but it’s surprisingly watchable, good sound. No timecode. Sorely needs an HD remaster and a proper re-release. Love and care needed here.

7.) To Encourage The Others

(Directed by Alan Clarke, written by David Yallop. Transmission date: 28th March 1972, BBC2, 110 minutes) Full synopsis from BFI Screenonline here.

A major piece of work. Clarke helms this powerful TV play adaptation by David Yallop from Yallop’s own non-fiction book of the same name about one of the most outrageous miscarriages of justice in British court history — the 1952 Derek Bentley case (see link to synopsis above). Before it was greenlit, Gerald Savory, the Head of Drama at the BBC at the time, apparently enraged Clarke by asking “Where’s the relevance for today in this play?’. Clarke’s response: “They took the boy out and murdered him. There’s the fucking relevance for today.”

Shot on multi-camera colour video for the court scenes, colour 35mm for the electrifying reenaction which opens the film, and rapid montage of B&W stills to illustrate and differentiate evidential reenactments, Clarke’s film takes a focused Peter Watkins-style forensic documentary approach to the proceedings which are based on actual court transcripts. The explosive opening reenactment sees Craig (Billy Hamon) shoot the police officer and jump off the warehouse roof. Hamon’s sweaty, manic, pilled-up work here precursors the blistering performances Clarke achieved with Tim Roth and Gary Oldman years later. Bound together by an occasional narrator (who also sounds rather like Peter Watkins), Clarke’s presentation of court proceedings is at first rather offputtingly simple and calm. It becomes apparent later what Clarke’s upto when he suddenly starts eliding Lord Goddard’s summing up and introducing occasional zooms into his face. Lord Goddard (terrifically played by Ronald Culver) interrupted proceedings at the original trial over 250 times and is thought to have played a huge part in sheperding the jury to the decision they delivered. A heartbreaking scene near the end — the day before Bentley is due to be hanged — sees Bentley’s family at home dealing with the tens of thousands of letters a public appeal generated and having to look through them all on the floor to find the official HMP letter which explains there will be no pardon.

Bentley, aged 19, was hanged in January 1953 by Albert Pierrepoint, Britain’s Chief Executioner of at least 433 men, 17 women, and over 200 Nazi war criminals after World War II. Clarke brought in the then retired Pierrepoint as technical advisor for the hanging scene and they even used his ropes and straps.

In July 1993, Bentley was granted a royal pardon in respect of the sentence of death passed upon him and carried out, but this did not quash his conviction for murder. In July 1998, the Court of Appeal quashed Bentley’s conviction for murder. Craig welcomed the pardon granted to Bentley. However, Bentley’s parents and sister had died by this date. Bentley himself would have been 65 years old.

Yallop’s book and Clarke’s film had a direct impact on the eventual pardon and quashed conviction — just one reason why this is a major piece of work.

Viewing source: DVD-R of a rough, dupey VHS with tracking problems. Starts with freeze glitches, and at the 76 minute mark, someone changes the channel to a rugby match for 30 seconds. Far from ideal (a 1991 TV broadcast could have been taped better than this). Just about watchable.

Further notes: Again, amazingly cast, mostly by Clarke it seems. Charles Bolton as Bentley, Billy Hamon brilliant as Craig, the mesmerising Kubrick-regular Philip Stone as prosecution counsel Humphreys, and just a word about Roland Culver who plays Lord Goddard: Clarke had previously cast Culver in SOVEREIGN’S COMPANY, he also appeared in the films of Carol Reed (NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH), Powell & Pressburger (ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING and THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP), Billy Wilder (THE EMPEROR WALTZ), Otto Preminger (BONJOUR TRISTESSE), Terence Young (THUNDERBALL), John Huston (THE MACKINTOSH MAN), and Lindsay Anderson (BRITANNIA HOSPITAL).

8.) “Horatio Bottomley”

Episode 2 of THE EDWARDIANS (Directed by Alan Clarke, written by Julian Bond. Transmission date: 28th November 1972, BBC2, 80 minutes (imdb’s “50 minutes” is wrong))

Clarke had a busy 1972, with five separate programmes transmitted on the BBC (not as busy as the late 1960s though). This BBC TV series, shot in colour (Clarke’s episode is unfortunately in B&W on the official DVD), consists of eight episodes devoted to particularly notable Edwardian personalities. The opening episode, which I watched to prepare for Clarke’s episode, was very enjoyable — it concerns the coming together of Rolls (Robert Powell) and Royce (Michael Jayston). Later episodes, which I have not yet seen, are devoted to Baden-Powell, E. Nesbit, Lloyd George, and Conan Doyle.

Clarke’s episode — HORATIO BOTTOMLEY — (Episode 2) is about notorious bon vivant, swindler, MP, public speaker, founder of the Financial Times and publisher of John Bull magazine, Horatio Bottomley (played superbly by Timothy West). A sort of cross between London Mayor Boris Johnson and Robert Maxwell, Bottomley limped from one outrageous scheme to another, along the way inventing Victory Bonds (a forerunner of Premium Bonds), entirely as a way of creating wealth to fund other dodgy schemes. A good talker — for many years he simply charmed his way out of court — the film charts his downfall and Jake LaMotta/RAGING BULL style ending. A 37-year-old Timothy West, champagne constantly in hand, is terrific throughout (a good Clarke drunk, but not Willie Ross level). Of particular note is legendary avant-garde theatre actor Henry Woolf who plays Bottomley’s fixer Tommy Cox. Part Dudley Moore, part Keith Moon, his well-oiled enabling of Bottomley’s schemes makes for a very interesting watch. I really liked this episode.

Viewing source: Official Acorn DVD, as part of their 4 x DVD set THE EDWARDIANS. Unfortunately, although completely shot in colour, only Episodes 1 and 8 (the first and last) are presented here in colour. The others (including Clarke’s HORATIO BOTTOMLEY episode) are in a bootleggy looking B&W. Watchable, but such a shame considering it’s an official release. Have the colour masters been junked?

Further notes: Stars June Brown (Dot Cotton from Eastenders). Noël Coward / Bottomley link: from Wikipedia, “In May 1931, whilst directing his latest play Cavalcade at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, the English actor, playwright and composer of popular music Noël Coward, lost a black leather wallet. In February 1981 during pre-production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, American actor Henderson Forsythe found Noël Coward’s missing wallet stuffed inside of a broken tuba that had fallen upon him whilst he had been rummaging in a storage cupboard. Curiously, Coward’s wallet also contained a small studio photograph of Bottomley. The discovery of the wallet provoked speculation that Coward had been planning a dramatic performance about Bottomley’s strange life. This speculation arose because at the time that Cavalcade was playing at the Theatre Royal, Bottomley was appearing in a music hall nearby, performing the above mentioned one-man show about himself. Horatio Bottomley died in May 1933 and no record of a Coward penned musical about his life has ever been discovered.”

9.) The Love-Girl and the Innocent

(Directed by Alan Clarke, written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Transmission date: 16th September 1973, BBC1, Play of the Month, 123+ minutes)

Incomplete notes… Wasn’t mad keen about this one, unfortunately. It’s the only Clarkey that I’ve had difficulty with so far. For a number of reasons, it just doesn’t bind together very well.

Viewing source: Timecoded DVD-R. One 20 second scene was erroneously repeated midway, and although imdb states 120 minutes, my DVD-R cut off abruptly at 123 minutes. It seemed like it was very close to the end, but it hadn’t ended, and the end credits hadn’t started (so I couldn’t get a grab of the “Directed by Alan Clarke” screen).

10.) Penda’s Fen

(Directed by Alan Clarke, written by David Rudkin. Transmission date: 21st March 1974, BBC1, 90 minutes) Full synopsis from BFI Screenonline here.

This is the early Alan Clarke work that receives the most golden write-ups — it is a wonderful piece of work. Broadcast exactly two years to the day after HORACE, Clarke was making 3 or 4 substantial TV plays a year at this stage. It is a magical, glorious, completely unique piece of writing by David Rudkin, expertly handled by Alan Clarke, who claimed many years later that he had no idea what it was about.

There’s not much writing available about early Clarke films, but I’m going to quote from Howard Schuman’s article in Sight & Sound, September 1998, because he covers this one brilliantly:

“The most ambitious of Alan Clarke’s early projects, Penda’s Fen at first seems a strange choice for him. Most scripts that attracted Clarke, no matter how non-naturalistic, had a gritty, urban feel with springy vernacular dialogue (and sometimes almost no dialogue). David Rudkin’s screenplay is different: rooted in a mystical rural English landscape, it is studded with long, self-consciously poetic speeches and dense with sexual/mythical visions and dreams, theological debate and radical polemic — as well as an analysis of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius. But though Penda’s Fen is stylistically the odd film out in Clarke’s work, it trumpets many of his favourite themes, in particular what it means to be English in the last quarter of the twentieth century.

Raised by the Rector and his Wife in a village near Pin-vin (Penda’s Fen), Stephen Franklin (Spencer Banks) is about to turn 18 — a detached, conformist, almost robotic young man with a narrowly rigid view of Englishness. He reveres a white middle-class couple for “upholding the Aryan national family on its Christian path” by slapping an injunction on a television documentary that portrays Jesus as a revolutionary, and dismisses local visionary television playwright Arne as a crank for criticising military and political authority.

But Stephen embarks on a journey into his unconscious and arrives at a far more complex — and humane — view of himself and ‘Englishness’. He experiences disturbing dreams of homosexual desire and visions of angels, demons, and King Penda (the last Pagan king of England). During a storm he takes refuge in an abandoned barn and hallucinates a meeting with his hero, Sir Edward Elgar. Elgar ‘tells’ him that the transcendental deathbed cry of Gerontius was inspired by the sound of a dog crying for a bone, gives a vivid description of an operation he endured to cut out the cancerous tumour in his stomach and finally whispers the name of the common tune which “combines” with his majestic Nimrod theme. In this key scene Stephen is made to understand that even the most lofty music of England is connected to nature, bodily functions and popular art — a crucial way-station to embracing both mystical paganism and a radical view of Jesus. The Rector himself opens Stephen’s mind to the Manichean notion that in the battle with the forces of darkness (authoritarian power in all its forms) there are many sons of light besides Jesus. Stephen also comes to accept his own homosexual feelings and questions a militaristic technocracy responsible for poisoning Penda’s Fen by covert biochemical experiments.

On his eighteenth birthday Stephen is informed by the Rector and his Wife that he is adopted; by now he has accumulated enough wisdom to celebrate his mysterious origins as being full of “possibilities” rather than something to be afraid of. In a final vision Stephen rejects the ideal Christian couple as “the sick mother and father who would keep us children forever.” He tells them: “I am nothing pure… my race is mixed… my sex is mixed… light with darkness… mud and flame.”

Stephen finds his humanity by connecting with the natural landscape in its richest and most varied forms. And Clarke rides the intellectual and emotional whirlwind of Penda’s Fen — with its ton and a half of symbolic, poetic, theological and political freight — with a firm sense of rhythm, clean, uncluttered framing and elegant camera movement.”

Howard Schuman, excerpted from a longer Alan Clarke feature in Sight & Sound magazine, September 1998.

Viewing source: DVD-R of a VHS of a TV screening circa 1991. Sorely needs caring for so we can view it optimally (an HD remaster and a proper re-release).

11.) A Follower For Emily

(Directed by Alan Clarke, written by Brian Clark. Transmission date: 4th July 1974, Play for Today, BBC1, 65 minutes)

Incomplete notes…

Viewing source: DVD-R of a timecoded viewing copy. Needs a proper remaster so we can view it optimally.

12.) Funny Farm

(Directed by Alan Clarke, written by Roy Minton. Transmission date: 17th February 1975, Play for Today, BBC1, 91 minutes)

From what I can gather, this was Clarke and Minton’s second collaboration for the BBC, the first was HORACE (1972) (they first worked together for ITV in the late 60s).

Minton based the play on his own experiences of being committed, for one night in 1969, to a grim Victorian Nottingham mental institute (due to alcholism, ulcers, and gambling, according to his friend Paul Knight who, along with Roy’s wife, had him committed). Michael Jackley, BBC production manager on many Clarke works, recalls Clarke donning the white coat and doing some shifts in a psychiatric ward for research (as a porter/helper presumably).

Tim Preece plays Alan, an underpaid male nurse in a shortstaffed psychiatric ward, almost singlehandedly running the place and dealing with patients/residents — some of whom have more serious problems than others. Alan Surtees is brilliant as Arthur, a violent alcoholic when on the outside and perhaps the most ‘normal’ resident among a ward containing: Jeff who loves Elvis and can’t stop combing his hair; meek Walter (played by Terence Davies, not the film director, despite what imdb says) who gives away everything he has (usually cigarettes) and has be told not to everyday; an older gentleman who sleeps most of the time but when awake is embarrassed that he doesn’t have his clothes on (when he does), etc.

In Richard Kelly’s ALAN CLARKE Faber book, the late BBC producer Mark Shivas recalls that new lightweight cameras at the time enabled Clarke to move around a lot more, and he remembers FUNNY FARM as being the start of Clarke favouring an over-the-shoulder shot following someone down a corridor (of which there are many, memorable, unusually elevated shots in FUNNY FARM).

It’s depressing, funny, bittersweet, resigned, angry, well-made, and ultimately political in nature (the male nurse hands his notice in at the end to go and earn more money for his young family by doing manual work in a factory). An important Clarke work.

Commissioned for a 75-minute slot, Clarke’s final cut was 105mins, and was cut against his wishes to 91. Rightfully angry at a system which curtailed his work solely because the TV channel had to shutdown at a prescribed time, Clarke petitioned the head of plays, stood at the gates of the BBC pamphletting, and had to be talked out of removing his name from it. With this and DIANE, which immediately followed, we begin to see Clarke kicking against the system in many different ways.

Viewing source: DVD-R of a timecoded viewing copy. Needs a proper remaster so we can view it optimally.

13.) Diane

(Directed by Alan Clarke, written by David Agnew. Transmission date: 9th July 1975, Playhouse, BBC1, 97 minutes)

Incomplete notes…

An example of one of the many slow wipes in the film (caught at exactly halfway).

Viewing source: DVD-R of a timecoded viewing copy. This is a beautifully shot film and would benefit greatly from a proper HD remaster so we can view it optimally.

14.) Fast Hands

(Directed by Alan Clarke, written by Roy Minton. Filmed in 1975. Transmission date: 4th May 1976, Plays for Britain, Series 1, Episode 5, ITV, 49 minutes)

Great lead performance by Bill Buffery as eager, dedicated young boxer Jimmy Hanbury who gets a lucky break in this London-filmed, grimy, and ultimately depressing tale. Filmed with lots of handheld camera work (in the gym, on the streets), this was pretty fresh, documentary-like stuff for mainstream commercial British TV in 1975, and it’s aged well. The script trundles along nicely as Jimmy gets a chance — through someone else’s injury — to fight in a bigger fight than he’d normally find himself, and then it delivers a hell of a downer towards the end. British TV in the 70s seemed full of these hardhitting, depressing endings, completely unafraid to end it badly, unconcerned whether the audience likes to see such things or not. On the whole, not as subtle or interesting asDIANE which seemed to mark a new direction in Clarke’s work, and which was shot earlier the same year.

Note: Jimmy’s girlfriend is played by Gillian “Eastenders” Taylforth.

Viewing source: Official DVD (Network, UK) from the PLAYS FOR BRITAIN 2x DVD release (2013). Watchable, but seems to be an off-air broadcast recording (BETA SP?) with the “adverts marker” appearing top right and a pretty ropey picture quality with a slightly distracting line down the screen. Perfectly watchable, but is this all that exists? Couldn’t really tell whether it was shot on film or video because of the murky quality, but it surprisingly added to the grime of 1976 London.

15.) Scum [TV version]

(Directed by Alan Clarke, written by Roy Minton. Filmed in 1977, not screened at the time, banned by the BBC. Eventual transmission date: 27th July 1991 (14 years later), Play for Today, BBC2, 78 minutes)

One of Clarke’s most famous/notorious pieces of work, SCUM has been written about at length, so I’ll keep it short. I wanted to watch the original banned 1977 BBC version back to back with the 1979 film remake (also by Clarke) because I was hazy on what the differences were (having seen them both last 20 years ago after Alan’s death).

My overarching observation is that I much preferred the 1977 original. The actors were younger, wetter behind the ears, the violence seemed harsher (even though we see less than the remake), and the whole piece just had more momentum/impact.

Viewing source: Official DVD (Blue Underground, USA) from the 2004 ALAN CLARKE box set. Pretty good. The original 16mm materials need an archival quality 2K scan for future HD use.

    Nick Wrigley

    Written by

    Founder of The Masters of Cinema Series 2004–2012, now at | Email: n [at]

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