John and Yoko, Kurt and Courtney, Sid and Nancy – being the girlfriend of an icon can be a tough calling. But if Who Killed Nancy? sounds like a detailed investigation into the murder of a young woman who happened to be one of the most contentious groupies of all time, be warned: it’s not. Instead, Alan G Parker’s documentary aims to clear the name of Sid Vicious, long the fall guy for his girlfriend Nancy Spungen’s death in 1978. She was found in a hotel room, clad in black lingerie with a single stab wound disfiguring her abdomen.
There’s something about this junkie love story that keeps people coming back for more. Part investigative documentary and part fond biography, Who Killed Nancy? can’t help but be interesting. Although Alan G Parker’s direction is at times a little confused, his interviews offer a genuine insight into the macabre fascinations of a man who named himself after his most unlovely trait.
What is lacking from the film is a decent explanation for the venomous feeling ‘nauseating Nancy’ provokes. If Vicious was simply a drug-addled musician then it’s unclear why Spungen was such a figure of hate. In the years since her death, those who knew the couple have vividly described their dislike of Spungen, and many have near celebrated her demise. Given that Nick Broomfield’s Kurt & Courtney managed an investigation into Courtney Love with little more than a rumour and a prayer, it would have been nice to see Parker’s research stretched a little further.
However, being left wanting to know more is not necessarily a bad thing. What the film does reveal is that, like any great rock myth, the questions surrounding this murder are unlikely to cease with the closing credits. But like all good stories, it’s not so much the ending that counts, more the way you tell it.
A dissection of an iconic couple whose life and death still resonate.
More than just third hand testimonials from desperate liggers, Parker paints a portrait of the murky side of punk.
Who killed Nancy? Who was Nancy? Why should we care? Perhaps there were bigger questions that went unanswered.