Vintage Movies: “Sid & Nancy”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.


Sid & Nancy (1986, 112 minutes)

With scorching anthems “Anarchy In The U.K.” and “God Save The Queen,” the Sex Pistols exploded all over the British music scene in 1976-77 like a scud missile from hell. As for the worth of Sid & Nancy, a film about punk’s glory days, you could take it straight from the horse’s mouth. John Lydon, the birth name of Pistols’ frontman Johnny Rotten, told Conan O’Brien in 1994 that Sid & Nancy was “dreadful, absolute fantasy … and the worst part was it glorified drug addiction.”

Lydon also revealed he named Pistols bassist Sid Vicious after his pet hamster and that, contrary to his belligerent image, “Sid couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag of crisps.” Lydon didn’t bother to mention that Andrew Schofield’s tepid portrayal of his own character was closer to a grinning, orange-haired Muppet version of Johnny Rotten than the abrasive, opinionated real thing. Fortunately, the pic is saved by Gary Oldman’s earnest, stumbling take on Sid and Chloe Webb’s portrait of Nancy Spungen, Sid’s whiny, heroin-addict American girlfriend.

The movie begins near the bitter end with an NYPD dispatcher sending a unit to the Chelsea Hotel for a domestic violence complaint in late 1978. “Look, we just want to know who the girl was,” a police detective asks a sniffling Sid as they zip Nancy’s body into a plastic bag. He hands Sid a cigarette to break the ice, asking, “Where did you meet her?” Sid takes a deep drag with bloodstained hands and replies, “I met her at Linda’s.”

But that’s all he’s got to say. “Keep the fuckin’ press back, willya! Let’s go kid,” orders the cop as he takes Sid down to the station for questioning. Outside, the paparazzi are ready to pounce. “Smile for us, Sid!” they shout from the rain-drenched sidewalk. In the interrogation room, with a few writers included, Sid decides he’s had enough. “Ow! The fucker bit my goddam hand!” screams one of the cops. “All right, get out!” orders the arresting officer. “What do you think this is, a Mets game?”

A year earlier, at a band meeting with manager Malcolm McLaren on the verge of their only American tour, drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones voice their displeasure with Sid. “I know we’re no great shakes,” says Cook, “but the bass player has to keep the beat.” Jones totally agrees, “We have to turn his amp off half the time. We’d be playin’ one thing and he’d be playin’ a fucking ‘nother.” McLaren, a trendy Kings Road boutique owner, tries to snuff out the mutiny. “Look, I sympathize, but Sidney is more than a mere bass player. He’s a symbol, a metaphor who embodies the dementia of a nihilistic generation.” Better still, he adds, “And he’s a fabulous disaster.”