Who Killed Nancy review


It has been roughly a year since writer and filmmaker, Alan Parker, announced his documentary about Nancy Spungen's murder, Who Killed Nancy. Seemingly plagued by the ghost of his friend, Anne Beverley (Sid's mother, who died in 1996), to clear the name of her son, Parker has painstakingly tried to piece together what happened that night at the Chelsea Hotel in October 1978. While the criminologist results are hit and miss, it takes you on a bloody good journey nonetheless, from Sid's recruitment into the Sex Pistols, meeting Nancy (who is given a bit of a hard time here, it has to be said), and the inevitable downward spiral they took.

The director knows his subject well; he has written three Sid Vicious biographies, one book on the Pistols, and was a consultant on Alex Cox's 1986 biopic, Sid & Nancy. Do a Google search of Sid Vicious and I guarantee you his name will show up on the list. This time around, he has enlisted the help from a number of people who knew the doomed duo well, such as Viv Albertine, Steve 'Roadent' Connolly, Steve Dior, Peter 'Kodick' Gravelle, Hellin Killer, Neon Leon, Don Letts, Keith Levene, Glen Matlock, Howie Pyro and John 'Boogie' Tiberi, to name just a few.

While some of the insights are really quite depressing at times (one involving Sid strangling a kitten to death isn't particularly pleasant), the film is entertaining and chugs away at a time-chewing pace. You got some pretty animations thrown in with some zippy non-Pistols punk music in the background. It's like a ninety-minute music video. Shame that Parker wasn't able to procure some Pistols material to give the documentary a more authentic "oomph" but he does well with what he has.

Add some rare archive interviews, television reports, and many unseen photographs, and it automatically qualifies as a must-buy for any Pistols fan. The budding Hercule Piorot has much value to be found in this DVD also. For the first time, Parker has worked with the NYPD in a bid to solve a thirty-year-old murder. The most convincing discovery being the unknown psychotic dealer, known only as 'Michael', being thrown around as Nancy's real killer by some of the interviewees. As for hardcore evidence, that's one area Who Killed Nancy falls short, although the investigation is commendable.

On the extras side, there's over ninety minutes of supplemental content. The highlight being Don Letts' footage of Sid Vicious at The Roxy. This is a treat worthy of the asking price alone, providing an ultra-rare glimpse of Sid's goofiness. In many ways, this is all the evidence you need as to whether he was the killer or not.

What else? You got your trailers and behind-the-scenes stuff. One welcome extra in particular is an exclusive performance of 'Fast Track to Hell' by Neon Leon, who was a friend of Sid and Nancy's during their stay at the Chelsea Hotel. Bonus interviews, outtakes and Parker's personal story all pad out the disc nicely. The only notable absence is a commentary. Or maybe I'm being too greedy?

Who Killed Nancy is a well-directed, well-edited and watchable documentary. The Future is Unwritten it is not, but is a first-class effort regardless. It will be interesting to see what Alan Parker comes up with in the future. His talent as a filmmaker is noticeably improving.


Brett Dunford (2009)