Sid & Nancy Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: They Did It Their Way

It's hard to care about Sid and Nancy when they care so little about themselves and those around them.
  |   Comments

Director/co-writer Alex Cox's Sid & Nancy tells the story of the short, tragic love affair between Sex Pistols' bassist Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb deliver fantastic performances, but unfortunately the characters are so selfish and self destructive, it's hard to care about them when they care so little about themselves and those around them.

Opening with Nancy's dead body being removed from New York City's Chelsea Hotel and Sid charged with her murder by the NYPD, the film flashes back to about a year earlier in the UK.  Sid has recently gotten the job as bass player, despite his limited talent on the instrument, replacing Glen Matlock, and meets Nancy, an American groupie.  After a night of sex and heroin, Nancy is surprised that Sid doesn't want her to leave in the morning and their relationship begins. 

Cox conveys the couple's mindset with the Pistols' promotional excursion down the Thames that is ended by the police.  During all the commotion, Sid and Nancy walk through the chaos, unconcerned and unaffected by what is happening around them.  They are forced to part for a month while the Pistols make their one and only tour of the U.S. and their self-destructive behavior continues.  After the Pistols break-up, Sid tries a solo career with Nancy working as his manager.  Their increasing drug abuse compounds their struggles, leading to where we met them at the beginning of the film.

While the accuracy of the events are in dispute, Sid & Nancy offers an intimate look at the infamous couple and the punk rock scene.  That close examination tends to get grim and grimy, especially as the couple's addiction consumes them.  However since the story told has little application beyond its characters, this biopic serves as little more than a public service announcement about the dangers of drugs, albeit with the greatest performances ever occur in one. 

The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1.  The liner notes state, "Supervised and approved by director of photography Roger Deakins, this new 16-bit 4K digital transfer was created on a DFT Scanity film scanner from the original 35mm camera negative at Deluxe in Culver City, California. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MIT Film's DRS, while Digital Vision's Phoenix was used for jitter, flicker, small dirt, grain, and noise management."  sh

The image presents inky blacks, strong earth tones, and bright colors.  The latter on display in the open-air market.  good shadow delineation, There is film grain, which gets to think in low-lit scenes like during the opening before Sid is arrested in the hotel room and the outdoor establishing shots.  There is good contrast and shadow delineation.

The audio is available in LPCM 2.0. and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The original stereo soundtrack was remastered from the 35mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX.  On the 5.1 track, the music that plays in the London club is loud and pumps throughout the system, but the music that occurs on boat rattles the speakers and subwoofer.  The dialogue is usually clear, but as Sid waits in the rain for Nancy to come back with drugs, the storm effects overwhelm the dialogue.

The disc is jam packed with features.  There are two commentaries, from 1994 and 2001.  The former includes co-screenwriter Abbe Wool, actors Oldman and Webb, cultural critic Greil Marcus, filmmakers Julien Temple (The Great Rock and Roll Swindle) and Lech Kowalski (D.O.A.: A Right of Passage), and musician Eliot Kidd (friend of Sid); all recorded separately.  It's refreshing to hear the film's inaccuracies critiqued. The latter is a joint effort by Cox and actor Andrew Schofiled (Johnny Rotten).

"England's Glory" (HD, 30 min) is a 1987 documentary of the making of the film.  There is a new interview with "Alex Cox" (HD, 24 min) talking about the genesis of the project and his interest in punk rock. Excerpts from the 2016 documentary, Sad Vacation (HD, 14 min) about Sid and Nancy.  "Key scenes" from Kowalski's 1980 doc on the Sex Pistols American tour, "D.O.A.: A Right of Passage (HD, 10 min).  "Sid Vicious, 1978" (Audio, 13 min) - On January 19, 1978, five days after the last Sex Pistols show and three days after overdosing, Sid flew from to London but went into a drug-induced coma, as seen in the film.  This is a phone interview conducted the next day with photographer Roberta Bayley talking about the tour.

The next two are Sex Pistols extras before Sid's time in the band so not sure why they are included.   "The Filth and the Fury!" (1080i, 3 min) presents the Sex Pistols infamous December 1, 1976 appearance on the UK program Today, hosted by Bill Grundy.  Circus music plays over the performance.  Excerpts from "The London Weekend Show" (1080i, 14 min) about punk music and fashion, which aired on November 28, 1976.  It's cool to see Siouxie Sioux and The Clash.

Sid and Nancy aren't compelling figures in this film, so the cautionary tale that is their lives is undercut.  Which is too bad because Sid & Nancy is well made.  The Criterion Blu-ray offers a satisfying high-def presentation with only minor knocks against them.  Fans of the film and their real-life counterparts will be very pleased by all the extras. 

Follow Us