The debut film of director Joel Coen and his brother-producer Ethan Coen, 1983's Blood Simple is grisly comic noir that marries the feverish toughness of pulp thrillers with the ghoulishness of even pulpier horror. (Imagin... more »e the novels of Jim Thompson somehow fused with the comic tabloid Weird Tales, and you get the idea.) The story concerns a Texas bar owner (Dan Hedaya) who hires a seedy private detective (M. Emmett Walsh) to follow his cheating wife (Frances McDormand in her first film appearance), and then kill her and her lover (John Getz). The gumshoe turns the tables on his client, and suddenly a bad situation gets much, much worse, with some violent goings-on that are as elemental as they are shocking. (A scene in which a character who has been buried alive suddenly emerges from his own grave instantly becomes an archetypal nightmare.) Shot by Barry Sonnenfeld before he became an A-list director in Hollywood, Blood Simple established the hyperreal look and feel of the Coens' productions (undoubtedly inspired a bit by filmmaker Sam Raimi, whose The Evil Dead had just been coedited by Joel). Sections of the film have proved to be an endurance test for art-house movie fans, particularly an extended climax that involves one shock after another but ends with a laugh at the absurdity of criminal ambition. This is definitely one of the triumphs of the 1980s and the American independent film scene in general. --Tom Keogh« less
Thomas Beach | Rochester, WI United States | 04/10/2003
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Blood Simple is one of the all-time great independent films. As a devotee of this film it goes without saying that I know nearly every line of dialogue and every cut. Well... if you too are a fan , my advice to you is: PASS ON THIS EDITION! I was absolutely shocked to see that this film had been re-edited! And NOT for the better. In fact, this was not a new edit in the traditional sense (scene shifting; scene re-edits etc.). All they did with this version was to simply lop off lines from the existing original final cut! That's right. They just shortened scenes, most often taking the form of the scene ins and outs (first and last lines in each scene). For instance, M.Emmet Walsh's last line to Marty in the VW when he contracts Walsh. Or how about the humorous placing of Getz's cigarette in the stuffed wild boars mouth at Marty's house? Or the exchange between Samm-Art Williams and the redneck at the juke box. Those lines are now gone completely. And remember that version of The Monkee's "I'm A Beliver" which was used in that scene? Its been dumped for a Four Tops tune. This is just a few in a long list of disturbing changes. As a film editor, I asked myself, what imporovements were made with these new cuts? The answer is a resounding, NONE! My point is this. If you buy this DVD expecting the same old Blood Simple in a new, crisp DVD edition, you will be sorely disappointed. You will be constantly distracted by the jarring edits rather than being able to enjoy the film... Again, worthless."
Blood Simple at Last!
Robin McDonald | USA | 07/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fortunately for everyone a decision was made to re-release Blood Simple in theaters. 16 years ago when it was in first run I was barely aware of it. There were so many good reviews of the film I decided to go catch it. Blood Simple was the best film I saw in 2000. Until now there has been no DVD available in the U.S. A very grainy poor quality pan and scan copy is being sold in the UK. It just isn't an option to purchase a pan and scan with this movie. The Coen brothers gorgeous cinematography makes full use of the entire frame. It is a noir style film so much of the imagery is in darkened bars and at night. But the color and light in the movie is really beautiful. This film has deserved a good treatment and now with this Director's cut it is finally getting one. One of the odd things about this Director's cut is it is the same length as the original version. Footage has been taken out and not added. The missing time is made up with an introduction by the Coen Brothers explaining that the film has been re-edited to take advantage of new technological advances not available when the film was first shot. This is sort of a joke similar to the opening of Fargo where a title card states, "Based upon a true story". Fargo is not based on a true story. They just thought it would be a better story if people thought it was true when they watched it. Ha Ha. Blood Simple's re-edit was a simple edit to tighten up the pace which was sometimes a little slow in the original version. Made for only two million dollars Blood Simple is a stunning achievement, all the more so because it was the Coen's first film. Stylish photography plays with not just light and shadow as in most noir, but color as well. But what drives this film is suspense mistrust and double dealing. I smile when I occasionally spot a criticism of this film is "its almost too clever" and "too perfect". Blood Simple is fantastic at its clever choreography of events and placement of objects in relation to the actors that really adds to the tension and excitement. If thats too clever then spare me the dumbed down version. I love it. The acting is quite good. Its most interesting to see Frances McDormand, looking much younger and quite pretty, was obviously talented even back then. Blood Simple is often very disturbing. Especially good is a creepy scene in a moonlit field involving two men a burlap sack and a shovel. The violence in this scene as in much of Blood Simple is largely psychological. It was interesting to discover from an Amazon customer from Germany that they have a high quality widescreen DVD available in his country. But while they can buy it and watch it, German law forbids export of films which contained violence. He offered to bring a copy in his suitcase as he happened to be visiting my city. We couldn't work it out logistically but fortunately for the rest of you, you soon won't have to go to such great lengths to get a copy."
Walter Neff Said...
Matthew Schneider | Wisconsin | 06/05/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"With a story that makes "Double Indemnity" look like the quickest way to get from point A to point B, a couple of my very favorite filmmakers turned the film noir conventions 360 degrees. Yes, that means it ended up back where it started, but much better as a result of the the trip. A good film noir needs a couple key elements, not the least of which are several layers of double crosses and misunderstandings. It also needs the one key clue that could clear or incriminate a murderer. To those ends, Joel and Ethan Coen created yet another little world in which several clues are left unused or misunderstood, and the double crosses are the bread and butter of one very crafty, though seedy, private eye. John Getz, Frances McDormand, M. Emmet Walsh, and Dan Hedaya are all 102% perfect in their roles. Barry Sonnenfeld delights with his cinematography, and the Coens have fun messing with the viewer. They set out to make a darkly funny, very twisted noir and they succeeded. The real stars are the Coens, much like with any of their movies (exceptions made for John Turturro or John Goodman in any of their roles, of course). Joel and Ethan are master craftsmen of cinema usually overlooked by mainstream audiences. Their debut, "Blood Simple," not only showcased the promise of their talent, but was a tour de force on its own terms. Along with "L.A. Confidential," "Blade Runner," and "Hard Eight," "Blood Simple" proves that film noir is not dead. Because it is, as this film proves, very hard to kill something, and have it stay dead...."
Minor cuts that leave minor scars
Scott Worley | Brea, CA USA | 10/03/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a big fan of the film since it was released in 1985, I was looking forward to seeing Blood Simple transferred to DVD. A cleaned-up widescreen transfer, and maybe a little cleaner audio, were all good things that I wanted to see happen; and with the Director's Cut, it did happen. However, I think the edits that were made in this version of the film may displease fans of the original -- I know they displease this fan.I won't go into a laundry-list of the cuts. They are, for the most part, the removal or trimming of some funny bits and gags that don't really contribute to telling the story; but they do, in my opinion, contribute to the quirky charm of the film without consuming a great deal of time on screen. Also trimmed are some uncomfortable silences that develop between people in certain scenes; making them not so uncomfortable, I guess, but I don't see this as an improvement.Most disconcerting to me are some of the music changes. One that particularly disappointed me is when Ray first confronts Marty on the back steps of the bar. In the original version, a slow-tempo instrumental country-western tune is playing inside the bar, and after transitioning to the outside, the same song is heard muffled in the background with the bass still booming. As anyone who has ever stood outside a nightclub can tell you, this is exactly what you hear -- the lower frequencies propagate better than the higher frequencies. The editors have seen fit to change this to a vocal piece of music that is reduced in volume as the view changes to the outside, but without the realistic frequency balance. I don't understand why this change was made. Perhaps some didn't like that the music here wasn't really so much music as it was background sound, or perhaps it was thought to interfere with hearing the conversation; but I think it was a wonderful element in the atmosphere of the scene that I surely miss.Regarding the new intro with the pompously lecturing gentleman, suffice it to say that it can be fast-forwarded through.This Director's Cut version delivers basically the same psychological and visceral thrills as the original version, with improved video and audio; but long-time fans, such as myself, may find the changes have done some minor cosmetic harm, rather than good."
A Highly Entertaining Debut
Lawrence Kinsley | Lakeland, FL USA | 04/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Blood Simple, made in the mid-1980's, helped to establish the cheaper indie film, independent of the Hollywood mill system, as a force to be reckoned with. It also launched the careers of the film's makers, Joel and Ethan Coen, as an artistic duo equally to be reckoned with. Finally, the movie itself, a film noir entry with post 1950's elements of sardonic humor, helped to prove that that genre - one of America's prime contributions to theatrical film making - was still alive, if only occasionally ticking.
Pretty much based on its title - `blood simple' meaning the less than intelligent condition those involved in murder frequently display in their attempts to cover up the crime - the film mixes a fairly straight forward narrative with a few curves and symbolic gestures thrown in that were to become the Coens' trademark. One can speculate endlessly, of course, on various artifacts - the whirling fans, the cigarette lighter, the decaying fish, etcetera - provided in the movie, but for the most part they in the end would appear to be little more than examples of - and quite likely a homage to - Hitchcock's celebrated McGuffin - ie: an item around which a plot seems to revolve but which in the end has no real significance to the film's denouement. (Although one exception to this rule is to my mind the hat which forms a central icon in the Coen's later masterpiece, Miller's Crossing, where it obviously signals Gabriel Byrne's authority and integrity as an independent human being.)
Blood Simple presents a basically ensemble cast of 4 actors, all of them at that time pretty much new to movies. Frances McDormand, never looking more attractive (watch the bathroom scene where she lets down her hair and splashes water on her face, wherein she bears a distinct resemblance to an equally young Jane Fonda), embarks here on a successful career in both future Coen releases and other films. She conveys a frank innocence marred by an apparent propensity to sexual affairs (though in fact this is based mainly on hearsay - her only discretion actually shown in the movie occurs with the John Getz bartender character after she is in the act of leaving her husband.) Her own first display of the Blood Simple condition actually occurs beforehand, with her returning to her and her husband's house and then moving in with Getz rather than keeping on in her plan to flee to Houston, where presumably the Getz character, having little or no visible tie to either his job or his home, could easily join her. Getz, always somewhat wooden in his performances, actually uses this shortcoming to good advantage as the phlegmatic bartender, who finds himself forced to commit his own `blood simple' crime in order to cover up for the crime he supposes his new lover has committed. Dan Hedaya gives what is to be his usual sinister but somewhat dry-witted performance as the husband, while as the private eye M. Emmett Walsh shows yet again his superb ability to portray redneck sleaze elevated to almost surreal heights by a high-pitched cackling laugh. The ending, though in some ways a bit too obvious, at least rivets with its macabre violence and moody, again Hitchcockian, setting.
Much has been made of the so-called return from the grave by one of the corpses in the movie. Not revealing the identity of the victim, nevertheless it can be pointed out that this incident is of course presented as an obvious dream sequence and not as reality. But what makes the scene distinctly curious is that the sequence also appears to the McDormand character as a sort of premonition or augury of the movie's final denoument. What no one else seems to have noted is the presence in the scene of window glass spread over the floor of her apartment, glass which did not actually appear until near the end of the film in the finale's first shooting scene.
The DVD version has been presented as a director's cut, though most of the cuts are little more than a tightening of dialogue to increase the pace a bit. Also removed was some banter involving Getz's bartender friend, as well hardly pertinent to the plot. One cut, however, that does bother is Getz's brief cigarette shtick with McDormand's piggy bank: at the end of the movie he is attacked by this very artifact, but the viewer hardly knows what it is since in the new version it appears only in a couple of long shots. The Coens make up for the few removed minutes by tacking onto the front of the movie a comic turn by a man purporting to be the head of the company that `restored' the movie for its DVD presentation, which along with the commentary track provided is nothing but a send-up of both restoration projects (greatly needed and hardly seeming to be a subject for satire) and DVD commentaries (often deserving of a thorough parodying). Yet why in this movie the Coens felt the need for such a presentation is unclear; one could see it attached say to one of their comedic entries such as the estimable Raising Arizona, but here in a film noir, as funny as the un-credited commentator may have been with his droll presentation of the `original' Blood Simple plot, it seems out of place and self-indulgent.
Finally, much has been made of Blood Simple's resemblance to a later Coen Brothers film: Fargo. Both it is true follow the same basic idea of stupidity following a crime. But the to me fatal flaw in Fargo is that this stupidity also occurs systematically during and before any actual crime, by characters who are for the most part congenitally dumb. This unfortunately negates the entire basis of film noir, which was of basically `average' people being caught up in a dark universe not of their making and beyond their control. The other pertinent flaw in Fargo was that the McDormand cop was presented as a positive, intelligent and fully capable character around which all the flawed characters revolved, thus again removing much of the film noir sense of existential inevitability from the plot - we knew from the start that she would in the end win out over these cretins, which is exactly what she did. All in all, with its total immersion in the film noir world of everyman characters facing forces and confusions they are unable to cope with, I find that Blood Simple is a far better film than Fargo, in fact second only to Miller's Crossing thus far in the Coen Brothers' oeuvre. "