Sid and Nancy (1986)

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Released 27-Jul-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 108:42
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alex Cox
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Gary Oldman
Chloe Webb
David Hayman
Debby Bishop
Andrew Schofield
Xander Berkeley
Perry Benson
Tony London
Sandy Baron
Sy Richardson
Edward Tudor-Pole
Biff Yeager
Courtney Love
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music John Cale
Jem Finer
Jem Finer


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Dutch
Danish
Spanish
Portuguese
Smoking Yes, and heavy drug use
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Sid and Nancy was an early feature written and directed by Alex "Repo Man" Cox. As a former (plastic) punk, complete with chains, safety pins and dubious fashion sense (read pyjama jackets), I was intrigued to see how this movie encapsulated the life of one of the most significant pop icons of my formative years. Due to my age at the time I never got to see The Sex Pistols - the closest I got to seeing a famous "hardcore" punk band was when The Clash played an impromptu set at my local campus pub, passing the ashtray round for a collection as they busked their way to a gig in Edinburgh.

    Sid Vicious (a.k.a. John Simon Ritchie) was the generally talentless bass player for a little-known British pop group named The Sex Pistols. This film tracks his all-too-short life from the earlier days of Punk Rock to his heroin-addled demise after the infamous Pistol shuffled off this mortal coil. It is testament to the times that someone with so little musical talent and so little education could have achieved so much with his life before he died, at the age of only 21.

    Gary Oldman portrays Sid, a not-very-bright punk rocker who nevertheless managed to secure himself a place in Rock history by being drunk, violent, offensive and exploited during his brief meteoric history with The Sex Pistols. When he and friend Johnny Rotten (Andrew Schofield) call in on a prostitute chum one afternoon, they meet a heroin addicted American woman named Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb). Spungen was from a wealthy Philadelphia family, but had a history of drug abuse, prostitution and several suicide attempts to her name. Initially uninterested in her because sex is "boring" and "ugly hippy s***", Sid soon forms a relationship with the volatile and self-destructive American and the two become inseparable, but doomed, lovers.

    The bulk of the film focuses on the co-dependent relationship between Sid and Nancy as they drift away from the rest of the Pistols and become hopelessly addicted to heroin. When the USA tour by the Pistols degenerates into farce - they were pretty well despised by the typical middle-American audiences - Sid leaves the band and calls for Nancy to join him in America. Sid's solo outings (his marvellously irreverent cover of My Way still brings back fond memories) are covered, as is his sordid life with Nancy as they make their home in the infamous Chelsea Hotel in New York City. Despite trying to kick drugs several times, the outcome of their ill-fated relationship is obvious from the get-go. By the end of the movie Nancy will be dead from stab wounds - accidental or otherwise? - and Sid will be arrested for her murder.

    Whilst the film does cover some of the pivotal moments in the career of Sex Pistols, they are not the focus of the work. The story is a simple but dysfunctional love-story, and it is a very detailed and intimate portrait of the two lead characters. There is little to actually "enjoy" about this fairly depressing piece, but for fans of the era or of the Sex Pistols this is a great flick. Along with Oliver Stone's The Doors this has to be one of the best rock biopics I have seen. The excellent performances given by Oldman (although occasionally he does sound like Ade Edmondson from The Young Ones) and Webb are matched by some feisty supporting work from Schofield and David Hayman (Malcolm McClaren) and the occasional cameo from the likes of Kathy Burke and Courtney Love. There are some fairly strong scenes of drug use and an almost endless litany of swear-words, so your granny may not wish to watch along with you. Nevertheless, this is well worth a place in any punk rock fan's collection.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The overall video transfer of this film is really quite good.

    The movie is presented in an anamorphic aspect ratio of 1.85:1 which is the original theatrical aspect ratio.

    Image sharpness is somewhat variable, with occasional lapses into a slight blurriness that are fortunately overcome by the power of the characterisations of Oldman and Webb. There is certainly nothing dramatic in the way of grain however (although some of the early scenes do show some visible graininess), so occasional focus pulling limitations aside, the transfer is acceptably clear.

    Black levels are generally fine but they do tend to be a little shallow at times. Shadow detail is acceptable throughout. Colours are surprisingly vivid for a 1986 low budget flick - in this regard the print would put many more recent movies to shame. Skin tones are natural - of course the later scenes featuring the waxy, pallid complexion of a heroin addict is not something I have a lot of personal experience with.

    The transfer has no major MPEG compression issues. On my system aliasing was not a distraction and at all times there was very little in the way of edge enhancement.

    The transfer is surprisingly clean, given its age, with no major film artefacts present.

    There are no English subtitles available which is unfortunate. These would have come in handy on occasion (see below). One minor point - I found it impossible to deactivate the Dutch subtitles on my PC - on my main DVD player this was not an issue, but on the computer I just couldn't get rid of the damned things!

    The disc is in a single sided and dual layered (RSDL) format, with the brief layer change occurring at 51:07.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer, whilst technically serviceable, is pretty average to be honest. I would have loved a powerful 5.1 mix for the music, but alas it was not to be.

    There is a single English audio track for the main feature, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 kbps. There are no significant defects in the way of hiss or dropouts but I did feel that it was overall a bit too quiet. I had to listen at above my normal reference levels to provide an acceptable audio experience. Even then, I struggled a fair bit with the clarity of the dialogue at times. Whilst heroin addicts are not well known for their expert diction, I still felt that a few too many lines from a few too many characters were unintelligible and if you don't listen closely, you may well miss some of the dialogue here. There is a noticeable lapse in audio sync for a few seconds around 2:42 (in the police station) but otherwise sync is fine.

    Much of the music is of course taken from the punk rock of the time, largely the Sex Pistols and Sid Vicious, but with some contributions from the likes of X-Ray Spex and Joe Strummer. To my ears it sounds like all of the Vicious/Pistols stuff is performed by the actors rather than the original bands, and that is to their credit. A top soundtrack for fans of the genre to be sure.

    The soundstage is predominantly frontal in nature. Other than the occasional limitations in dialogue clarity described above, the front speakers do a good job with some decent spread across the front soundstage. There is really very little in the way of localised effects or front-to-rear panning going on. With the benefit of Pro Logic II, the surround speakers do get a reasonable workout for the musical numbers, and if you turn the volume up enough they become quite active when the Pistols are playing. Think of this as a decent stereo mix and you will not be disappointed.

    Depending on your speaker and amp setup, you may see some subwoofer activity, particularly during the musical numbers, but there is of course nothing available in the way of true LFE.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are, unfortunately, absolutely no extras present.

Menu

    The animated main menu features a looped clip of Sid's cover of My Way. It allows the options of playing the feature, selecting one of a mere twelve chapter stops, audio language and subtitle selection.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film has previously been released by Criterion in Region 1, with some nice extras but no anamorphic transfer. That edition is now out of print and the current MGM release appears to be substantially the same as our own. The various versions released differ in the following ways:

    The Region 1 Criterion edition contains the following extras:

    The Region 1 MGM edition contains the following extras:

    The Region 2 Momentum release contains the following extras:

    Given that the Criterion release is no longer available, the Region 2 version would probably be the preferred version for fans. A very detailed and impressive comparison of the different releases can be found here.

Summary

    Sid & Nancy is a gritty, dour snapshot of the doomed relationship between Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. Heroin addiction, violence, depression, anarchy and punk rock - that's the story. It is well acted, pacy and overall a great film for fans of the man, the Sex Pistols or the punk rock era in general.

    The 1.85:1 video transfer is pretty good - especially given the age of the movie.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio transfer is quite serviceable.

    There are no extras present.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Monday, June 21, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDMomitsu V880 upconverting DVI player, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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