It’s hard to fathom anymore, but there was actually a time when punks were real punks. They were rebellious because they wanted to be, not to sell records and clothing. They wanted nothing to do with the world around them — as opposed to the schmucks of today’s generation who can only be outcasts so long as they’re fashionable about it and get noticed. And one of the real punk genre’s best-known figures was a poor lad who went by the handle of Sid Vicious, who died of a heroin overdose in 1979. Prior to his death, however, there was another tragedy: the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, whose departure from life is often believed to have been at the hands of the famous Sex Pistols bassist.
Whether Sid did kill Nancy, though, is something we may never know. Thankfully, director Alex Cox — a real rebel when it comes to conformity himself — decided to not hypothesize over such matters. Instead, his 1986 biopic, Sid & Nancy, focuses on the chaotic love affair between the titular star-crossed lovers, taking us into their gritty and gloomy world. Gary Oldman (who was something of an unknown at the time) is positively stupendous as Sid Vicious, delivering a performance as spectacular as his BAFTA- (and possibly Oscar-?) nominated role in the recent Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy adaptation.
Equally memorable here is Oldman’s co-star, Chloe Webb as Nancy Spungen. At first you hate her. You want her to die because of how annoying and controlling she is: an aspect that was — believe it or not — toned down for this motion picture! Yet, as inhumanly irritating she is, director/co-writer Alex Cox manages to still feel an inkling of compassion towards her as that fatal final moment draws nigh. I wouldn’t say you’ll love to hate her, but you’ll definitely hate to love her. Interestingly enough (or perhaps ironically enough), Courtney Love nearly landed the part of Nancy — a role she would later take on in real life during her catastrophic marriage to Kurt Cobain — and wound up in a minor role here as one of Nancy’s friends.
MGM brings us this “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray, which boasts an impressive video presentation and an engaging 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that brings us the absolute best (as well as worst) Sid & Nancy can dish out to us and each other, such as the excellent soundtrack by Pray for Rain. Two featurettes, “For the Love of Punk” and “Junk Love,” dive into the classic punk music scene of yesteryear and the anarchic relationship of Vicious and Spungen, both told via interviews with people who were there and/or knew the doomed couple, and photos (most of which are of the actors portraying the actual people, interestingly enough). There’s also a theatrical trailer on-hand.
I’m not sure if two featurettes and a trailer would constitute this as a “Collector’s Edition” — especially seeing as how there’s not even a main menu here — and the Criterion Collection DVD release from 1998 featured far more interested special features. That said, though, MGM’s release of this underground cult classic (which is a great one to show to you kids if you want to talk about drugs!) is an eyeful, an earful, and-a-wonderful. Recommended.