Monday, November 15, 2010

Who Killed Nancy? (2009)

Director Alan G. Parker
Executive producer Steve Milne (Moon- co-producer)
Producer Christine Alderson (Valhalla Rising)

Nancy Spungen, found stabbed to death under the bathroom sink in room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel in New York on October 12, 1978, had many of what one could call enemies. After graduating from an alternative school for troubled youth in Pennsylvania where Sylvester Stallone also attended school, Nancy began to pursue her dreams, which included death, according to her mother. Called Nauseating Nancy by people who knew her in New York, it took the girl no time at all to build up the same reputation in London when she arrived with Johnny Thunders (1952-1991) and the Heartbreakers.  Nancy, however, is not as much the subject of this documentary as Sid Vicious.  Nancy's mother had written her story and then written her daughter off.  I reviewed Deborah Spungeon's book And I Don't Want to Live This Life on my book blog.

The documentary Who Killed Nancy is a very well made, hip-looking film spiced up with lots of interviews with 70s punk artists and figures who were big on the punk scene in New York and London in the late 70s.  There are also plenty of clips from newspapers and interview shows of important personalities in Sid and Nancy's story.  While her own mother believed that Nancy handed Sid the knife and told him to kill her if he loved her, many in the punk scene for the past 30+ years have continued to care and to ponder what really happened in the wee hours of the morning on October 12, 1978.

 Through candid talks with people who knew Sid and his mother Anne Beverley, filmmakers reveal a boy raised with a bohemian mother who once used her toddler son to smuggle drugs into England.  Sid, however, was shown to be highly intelligent and attuned to the whole press and media machine, knowing how to shock people, "fool them" in his words, into underestimating him.  While many people only know what the movie Sid and Nancy tells of Sid's life, the documentary paints a clearer picture of who he was before fame and what he became after meeting Nancy.

General consensus between friends, enemies, and people who were on the scene is that there is no way Sid would ever have killed Nancy even if he had been physically able to wield a knife the night of her death.  Through interviews with a detective who worked on the case, people who were in and out of Sid and Nancy's apartment that night, and people who were at the party at Sid's mother's apartment the night Sid died under mysterious circumstances, we get a fresh list of suspects.  Six people were wanted for questioning by the NYPD but after Sid's death, no one cared to hunt them down.  Now, the six names are blacked out of paperwork.  Chilling coincidences followed, including the presence of Rockets Redglare, a drug addicted man born hooked on heroine to parents from an  Italian-American mob family who gave Nancy 40 delauded pills that night, handfuls of people who saw Sid passed out and utterly unresponsive, and the bizarre condition and placement of the murder weapon when police arrived.  Friends and admirers of Sid give their theories on Nancy's murder, Sid's overdose, and his mother's suicide.

Who Killed Nancy is made from the perspective of people who believed in Sid's innocence and have a nostalgia and touching memory of the 70s punk scene.  Set with an engaging soundtrack of songs performed by the Buzzcocks, Terrorvision, and Steve Dior, the film adds a touch of more modern feeling punk. The documentary is broken up between segments by flashy, sometimes ridiculous animation produced by Nick Rutter who worked on animation for Monty Python.  The director, Alan G. Parker, is well versed in the story of Sid and Nancy. He wrote a book with Sid's Mother, Anne Beverley, entitled Sid's Way; the book Vicious: Too Fast To Live; the book Sid Vicious: No One is Innocent from which this documentary was made; and the book Expose:  Sex Pistols Wessex 1977.  He also worked on the films Love Kills: The Making of Sid and Nancy and God Save the Sex Pistols, among quite a number of books and films of other subject matter.