ALAN CLARKE COLLECTION (Blue
Underground) Five DVD set
containing 6 films and extras. I
think I must’ve been some kinda goddamn yob (British slang for a rowdy,
aggressive or violent young man) in a recent past life.
I feel irresistibly drawn to stories about
lad culture, hooliganism and thuggery, and my book collection loudly
trumpets this. Denis knows
that, and when The Alan Clarke
Collection found its way to the esteemed offices of Askew Reviews, he
figured I might like to do the honors on this one.
As usual, the cunt was right.
I’d never heard of Alan Clarke before, but
I’m glad I know of him now. Clarke
directed cutting edge films and TV shows for the BBC during the ‘70s and
‘80s. He also did some
straight feature films during this time.
Well respected and even hailed as “the greatest British filmmaker
of his generation” by The London
Observer, Alan Clarke died in 1990.
This DVD set showcases some of his best work, much of which has
never before been seen in
The collection starts out with the BBC version of
Made in 1977, it’s a searing indictment of
’s youth prison system. Brutal,
sadistic, racist guards make life hell for the young fellas, but the
guards’ behavior is merely a reflection of the way the entire system is
set up from the top down. It’s
harshly powerful stuff. So
harshly powerful, in fact, that the BBC ended up banning it before it
could be released. Not to be
deterred, Clarke made a theatrical version of Scum
that came out in 1979, and this is the second disc in this set.
A number of the actors from the BBC version, including star Ray
Winstone, were also in this version. The
story is essentially the same, but the production values are a bit better.
While I really liked both, I slightly prefer the earlier take
because of its incredible, gritty realism.
Next up is 1982’s Made
in Britain, starring a very young Tim Roth in his big screen debut.
Roth plays Trevor, a viscous, sneering, shouting, violent young
skinhead (go ahead, think of him as a yob- it’ll make you feel good!)
who is completely angry with the world.
While Trevor is generally an unlikable cat, the film points out
quite clearly that
’s social system has a big hand in helping to make him this way.
Grimly fascinating, Made in Britain is another quality piece of work.
The first time I watched this I was in the company of a group of
friends I’d been boozing with all day.
We made up a game that required us to drink each time Trevor said
“wanker” or “bollocks.” Our
efforts rewarded us with a new level of insobriety by the time the film
was over. As a bonus, Clarke
used a very cool song by The Exploited (I wish I knew what it was called)
in the opening scene that brilliantly set the tone for the entire movie.
Another good ‘un from this collection is The
Firm, which was released in 1988.
It features a cheesily mustachioed, ‘80s-lookin’ Gary Oldman as
Bex, a slick young real estate agent/family man by day and the hardass
leader of a gang of soccer hooligans at night and on the weekends.
What’s very interesting about The
Firm is that most of the guys in Bex’s crew, along with the majority
of the fellas from rival groups, are middle class professionals who mix it
up with each other purely for the buzz it gives them.
Bex’s goal is to unite all the firms into one merry band (with
him as the leader, of course) for an upcoming trip to support
. His ensuing quest comes to a
violent head, and once again Alan Clarke succeeds in showing us a unique
slice of British life at that time.
is on the same DVD as The Firm and was also made in 1988.
It was by far the hardest thing in this collection to watch.
Though only 39 minutes long, it features 18 different cold blooded,
stark, almost dialogue-free separatist killings in
. It’s fiercely realistic,
and while I didn’t enjoy it at all, it really just pile-drove home how
harsh this situation is.
The final DVD in this set is a great
documentary about Clarke himself. The
man was truly at the top of his craft when he died and is greatly missed
by many. I watched it after
viewing all the other movies, but I’d almost recommend seeing it before
you watch the other discs because it will really get you charged up to see
some seriously good filmmaking. –Ben