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Who Killed Nancy

Who Killed Nancy

Director: Alan G. Parker

Cast: Steve Connolly, John Holmstrom, Don Letts

An unofficial companion piece to music historian-turned-filmmaker Alan G. Parker's controversial 2008 tome Sid Vicious: No One Is Innocent, this speculative documentary explores the factual basis for the rumors that Sid Vicious, of the notorious punk band the Sex Pistols, did not kill lover Nancy Spungen in the manner of which he was formally accused. Because


An unofficial companion piece to music historian-turned-filmmaker Alan G. Parker's controversial 2008 tome Sid Vicious: No One Is Innocent, this speculative documentary explores the factual basis for the rumors that Sid Vicious, of the notorious punk band the Sex Pistols, did not kill lover Nancy Spungen in the manner of which he was formally accused. Because the facts surrounding that evening remain permanently murky (Vicious was so out of it that he had no memory what had transpired), Parker resists proposing one theory of how Spungen died and who killed her, and instead presents a host of theories from numerous interviewees directly or tangentially affiliated with the Pistols. Participants include Steve "Roadent" Connolly, Alan Jones, Howie Pyro, Don Letts, and many others. The film also works in crime scene evidence, eyewitness testimonies, and basic biographical material on Vicious that juxtaposes the rocker's meteoric rise and fall alongside the theories on Spungen's demise.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
If nothing else, the story of John Simon Ritchie demonstrates why you should be very careful when a friend wants to give you a nickname. Ritchie spent most of his youth as a sweet, slightly goofy kid living on the poor side of London with his ex-hippie mother. By most accounts, Ritchie had a cranky streak and a knack for starting trouble but no particular talent for violence -- as one friend one put it, "He couldn't fight sleep!" But then Ritchie's pal John Lydon came up with a new handle for him that changed his life. Lydon's own fortunes had taken a considerable turn when he started calling himself Johnny Rotten and joined a band called the Sex Pistols, so he devised a new moniker for his old schoolmate -- Sid Vicious, in part after John's pet hamster. Within a couple of years, Sid was playing bass with the Sex Pistols and had gained international fame. By early 1979, the Sex Pistols were history and Ritchie was dead. The most infamous episode in Sid Vicious' short, chaotic life was the killing of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen on October 12, 1978. Spungen was found stabbed to death in the bathroom of the shabby apartment she shared with Vicious in New York City's Chelsea Hotel. Given that they were living together, Vicious became a prime suspect in the investigation of Spungen's murder; due to the fact that he had a history of petty crime in the U.K. and was known as an abuser of hard drugs -- and (frankly) because he had the last name Vicious -- many people immediately assumed Sid had killed Nancy. Those people included the New York Police Department, whose homicide investigation team closed the case on Spungen's murder when Vicious died of a drug overdose on February 2, 1979. But do a nickname and a bad reputation equal blood on your hands? Over the years, a handful of Vicious' friends and bandmates have insisted they've never been convinced of his guilt. Alan G. Parker is a writer and documentary filmmaker who has written extensively about Vicious and the Sex Pistols and became close friends with Sid's mother, Anne Beverly. In his film Who Killed Nancy, Parker tries to do something that the NYPD didn't: nail down the facts of what happened on the night of Spungen's death, and answer the question of who held the knife that was used to kill her. In the first few minutes of Who Killed Nancy, Parker sums up the conventional wisdom about the murder of Nancy Spungen in a montage of interview clips and excerpts from television news coverage of Sid's and Nancy's deaths. But then someone asks the provocative question, "What if Sid didn't kill Nancy?" Much of the next hour is spent recounting the background on Sid's early life (dominated by poverty and his mother's instability and willingness to allow nearly any behavior), how he came to join the Sex Pistols (partly through loyal fandom and friendship with Johnny Rotten), and his sudden rise to fame in England. The film also lays the groundwork on how he came to meet Nancy Spungen, an American groupie who was widely believed to have dabbled in prostitution and drug dealing. Spungen had come to England in hopes of wooing Jerry Nolan, the drummer with the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers, who had just relocated to the U.K. Nolan's manager warned Spungen to stay away from him, and days later she met Sid. They were together for the rest of her life. It's not until close to the two-thirds mark of the film that Parker starts digging deep into the question of who killed Spungen, and ultimately (and not surprisingly) he doesn't offer a definitive solution to that puzzle. But Parker's amateur research does bring up some important facts and at least establishes reasonable doubt regarding Vicious' participation in the crime. If Sid really killed Nancy, who stole the money and drugs that disappeared from their flat around the same time? Could Sid have stabbed Nancy to death when he was fast asleep under the influence of the powerful barbiturate Tuinal? (One witness claims Sid took close to 30 Tuinals that evening to stave off heroin withdrawal -- enough to put most folks into a coma.) Who were the six possible suspects listed in an initial police report whose names were later blotted out, apparently without being interviewed? Why would Sid have washed the knife used to kill Nancy and wiped it free of fingerprints when he was still in the room when the body was found? And the fingerprints of several other people were found in the apartment during the NYPD's initial research; who were they and why aren't they mentioned in the report? Parker's list of interview subjects is, not surprisingly, a bit short on famous names, and the only Sex Pistol who agreed to be interviewed was Glen Matlock, the bassist whom Sid replaced (though they did play in a one-off band together, the Vicious White Kids). The film is also full of people who clearly knew Sid, but only so well, and the portrait that's painted of both Sid and Nancy is broad but a little shallow. The animated sequences used to liven up the film's visuals often distract from the action rather than supporting it, and while Steve Diggle of the Buzzcocks is a fine songwriter and guitarist, his tunes don't suit this film as well as anything the Sex Pistols ever recorded (though the rights to those recordings were probably too dear for this project). But, ultimately, Who Killed Nancy succeeds on one very important level -- it makes clear that the murder of Nancy Spungen wasn't the open-and-shut case the New York Police and the news media made it out to be in 1978, and that for all his many, many flaws, it's not only possible but fairly likely that Sid Vicious wasn't the man who killed Nancy Spungen. Which means, for all we know, her murderer is still walking free today.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Peace Arch Trinity
Region Code:

Special Features

Sid Vicious @ the Roxy filmed by Don Letts; Bonus stories; Alan Parker's story; Outtakes; Opening of Sex Pistols exhibition at the proud gallery

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Steve Connolly Participant
John Holmstrom Participant
Don Letts Participant
Steve English Participant
Kris Needs Participant
Sturgis Nikides Participant
Peter Gravelle Participant
Steve Dior Participant
Alan Jones Participant
Alan G. Parker Participant
Neon Leon Participant
Leee Black Childers Participant
Howie Pyro Participant
Elliott Kidd Actor
Kenny 'Stinker' Gordon Participant
Glen Matlock Participant
Kathleen Wirt Participant
Hellin Killer Participant
George Participant
Viviane Allbertine Participant
Edward Pole Participant
Nigel Marshall Sid Vicious
Sophie Boyes Nancy Spungen

Technical Credits
Alan G. Parker Director,Screenwriter
Christine Alderson Producer
Ian Davies Executive Producer
Susan Douglas Executive Producer
Edward Fletcher Executive Producer
Mark Foligno Executive Producer
Nigel Foster Executive Producer
Eve Gabereau Executive Producer
Saul Gillingham Sound/Sound Designer
Craig Irving Sound Mixer
Bill Jones Editor
Ruth Keattch Executive Producer
Geoff Keattch Executive Producer
Steve Milne Executive Producer
Gary Phillips Executive Producer
Nick Rutter Cinematographer
Deepak Sikka Executive Producer
Ben Timlett Producer
Mark Vennis Executive Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Who Killed Nancy
1. Chapter 1 [5:18]
2. Chapter 2 [5:22]
3. Chapter 3 [6:34]
4. Chapter 4 [4:49]
5. Chapter 5 [4:51]
6. Chapter 6 [5:38]
7. Chapter 7 [5:50]
8. Chapter 8 [5:37]
9. Chapter 9 [5:53]
10. Chapter 10 [5:31]
11. Chapter 11 [5:20]
12. Chapter 12 [5:24]
13. Chapter 13 [5:48]
14. Chapter 14 [5:39]
15. Chapter 15 [6:43]
16. Chapter 16 [1:15]

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