Pure Shit (1975)
By: Captain Red Eye on May 28, 2010  | 
Beyond Home Entertainment | Region 4, PAL | 4:3 | English DD 2.0 | 77 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Bert Deling
Starring: Gary Waddell, Carol Porter, Anne Hetherington, John Laurie
Screenplay: Bert Deling, Anne Hetherington, Alison Hill, John Hooper, Ricky Kallenda, John Laurie, David Shepherd, John Tulip, Bob Weis
Country: Australia
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Few Australian films have engendered such controversy as Bert Deling's maniacal black comedy Pure Shit. Tersely abbreviated to Pure S by censors, the film follows the exploits of four heroin addicts as they trawl inner city Melbourne searching for a 'hit' of the titular intoxicant.

Retrospectively touted as a forerunner to the slew of late-90s junkie morality tales, Deling's unflinching depiction of drug subculture virulently divided critics and filmgoers of the day. The Vice Squad raided the Melbourne premiere, the Australian Film Commission refused to screen the film at Cannes and Herald Sun reviewer Andrew McKay famously decried the picture as 'the most evil film I've ever seen.'

Thankfully modern sensibilities are not so easily affronted and Deling's opus can finally be appreciated for its own considerable merits. It's undoubtedly a raw film, shot over four weekends for a mere $28,000 (and failing to recoup even that modest budget). But it's also a captivating study in social realism and a darkly funny, refreshingly non-judgmental exploration of Melbourne's burgeoning heroin scene of the 1970s.

Largely suppressed for the past 35 years due to its graphic subject matter, this groundbreaking work has now been made available in a 3-disc deluxe box set courtesy of Beyond Home Entertainment. Brimming with bonus content the release features several audio commentaries and numerous interviews with the filmmakers and the cast, one of whom was a young Greig Pickhaver, later to become better-known to audiences as H.G. Nelson. The lavish fold-out artwork and picture discs mirror the kaleidoscopic intensity of the work itself, and also included are a lengthy expository essay from Megan Spencer, contemporary interviews with renowned critics and filmmakers and an audio CD of songs that appear in the film.

It's deservedly rich treatment for this underground classic of smacked-up Australiana, and to this day Pure Shit remains one of the most daring and defiant features ever produced on these shores.
The film's a little soft in places and displays numerous flecks and artefacts, but the colours and contrast are fine and overall it holds up very well, especially considering its age and the minute budget it was shot on.
The quality of the Dolby Digital 2.0 is also variable, with some of the dialogue slightly muffled, but it's always audible and likewise manages to hold its own, albeit without being anything spectacular.
Extra Features
Disc 1 features an audio commentary with director Bert Deling and producer Bob Weis, and a second audio commentary with sound recordist Gary Waddell and John Laurie.

Pure Shit reunion (29 minutes): The cast and crew reunite at the Retreat Hotel in Melbourne, 35 years after filming wrapped. It's an informal yet celebratory get together, and the single camera captures the occasion effectively with consistent audio and lighting throughout. Present are the director, producer Bob Weis, sound recordist Gary Waddell and principal cast members.

Also included is Interview with Bob Weis (17 minutes), Interview with Gary Waddell (19 minutes) and Interview with Bert Deling (32 minutes). The trio give their recollections of the filmmaking process and of life in hedonistic 1970s Melbourne. Natural born raconteur Wadell is by far the most entertaining of the bunch, but each interview is enlightening in its own way. Deling also discusses the rest of his small oeuvre, and gives the impression of having dropped one too many tabs of acid back in the day.

Finally, the Pure Shit theatrical trailer

Disc 2 features interviews with various critics, fans, and filmmakers: director Richard Lowenstein (15 minutes), director Jon Hewitt (14 minutes), actor and critic John Flaus (14 minutes), David Stratton (8 minutes), critic and writer Bob Ellis (14 minutes), Greig Pickhaver (13 minutes), Pure Shit cinematographer Tom Cowan (27 minutes), Pure Shit editor John Scott (10 minutes), Pure Shit composer and musician Martin Armiger (24 minutes).

There is also an automatically scrolling and painstakingly compiled photo gallery, set to music from the film

Disc 3 is an audio CD featuring 11 songs from the film. Recorded in a single day in 1975, the disc features music by Melbourne outfits The Toads and Spo-dee-oh-dee, in addition to selections from Armiger's score. The soundtrack has been remastered for the present release and sounds absolutely fantastic. Both bands are tight, Armiger's instrumentals exemplary - almost worth the price of admission on its own.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Based on the real-life experiences of real-life heroin addicts, some of whom were members of the cast or crew, Pure Shit remains a distinctly visceral and enjoyably frenetic exploration of the low life. The extras and packaging are almost without peer, and overall Beyond have done a first rate job of bringing this funny, fucked up Aussie classic, once presumed dead, back to life. Really, so much effort has been taken here that to give anything less than 5/5 would be downright churlish.

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