Now when i started doing the so-called “Cult Film” corner, i was wondering how you determine what is and isn’t a cult movie. For example, a couple of years ago, while volunteering for the Reykjavik International film Festival, i got into a very heated discussion with some volunteers and an organiser when i suggested that the film “Terminator” was a cult film. They said it wasn’t as it was a massive worldwide franchise. I had to point out that when the film was first released it only did very modestly and achieved a level of fame later on through VHS sales, and only really started achieving retroactive fame when they decided to make it into a franchise several years later. I suppose that if i’m looking for a decent definition, i could do worse than the one given by Alex Cox when he curated the seminal Moviedrome cult movie series on the BBC in the 80s/90s
So when i thought about the films I’m going to show tonight, i wondered if these could be actually classed as cult. But i believe so. The two films are highly political, made by a director who has a passionate but small following, and eschews flash theatrics for harsh cultural realities.
So tonight i present some powerful imagery from one of Britain’s most underrated but powerful directors. Alan Clark was born in Wallasey (where my mum was born as well!) directed numerous films both for TV and cinema. Often his films were of a highly political nature and often detailed lives of the working class in 80’s Britain under the rule of Margaret Thatcher. and tonight i’m offering up two of his best known works.
The first film up for viewing is SCUM (1978), his portrayal of the UK’s Borstal system. Telling the story of an inmate named Carlin (played by Ray Winstone when he was thin and angry), it was made as a TV film but was banned due to the levels of violence portrayed. It was remake, scene by scene as a cinema film and shown a couple of years later. It’s a bleak remorseless film where each side is a brutal as the other from the violent inmates, to the sadistic borstal officers, to the cold uncaring system that makes prisoners of them all. After watching this film, you will now understand the meaning of the phrase “Who’s the fucking daddy?”
The next film in our double bill is MADE IN BRITAIN (1982), a TV films starring Tim Roth (who is also thin and VERY angry) as Terry, a white power skinhead who rails at all forms of authority and resists all attempts to be integrated into “normal” society. His character is highly intelligent but is incredibly angry and self-destructive,spending his time smashing up shops and sniffing glue. It’s also a film about the state of the education system and the unemployment situation in early 80’s Britain. Again the mood of this film is bleak, offering no real happy endings and solutions to the how society can cope with angry people like Terry and Carlin. Oh and the intro to made in Britain is “UK82” by the Exploited, one of the most belligerently angry, nasty punk songs ever. Lovely!
So if you think that you want to see some films with real bite, and have had enough of endless fluffy rom-coms starring the likes of Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler, then get your teeth around these babies…