Pure S (shortened from “Shit” by pressure from the censor of the time) is an engaging, rough-and-ready improvisational drama-comedy (of errors) about 24 hours in the lives of a group of young dope addicts. It’s a micro-budget Australian independent feature from 1975 that deserves to be more widely known.It’s hard to imagine a worse advertisement for a drug taking lifestyle. In pursuit of a hit, various characters are ripped off (at one point shooting Drano into their veins), bashed, harassed by police or other junkies, caught up in a bungled double-raid on a chemist, sent to prison, turned catatonic in a mental institution, made sick or die from an overdose (and we’re not spared the sight of needles going into arms and frequently drawing blood). Let alone losing all their money and become selfish, conniving and paranoid.
Director Bert Deling cleverly shows us newcomers to the scene as well as veterans, so we get some idea of the attraction of drug taking and why someone might be fooled into trying it. He only slips up with some uneven satire of current affairs television and the medical system at the end (including a strange appearance by Max Gillies). Helen Garner has an eye-catching cameo as a lesbian on speed. The rest of the cast is also convincing, not surprisingly since many were non-professional actors, addicts or both.To the credit of Deling and his actors, these characters are lively and sharp. They’re too fixated on themselves and finding another hit to wallow in tragedy (Darren Aronofsky, who made Requiem for a Dream, could have learnt from this). Which shows how low their lives have sunk, but paradoxically gives Pure S freshness and life and helps make it palatable for an audience.