Blood Simple has a simple premise, but it’s far from simple how events will turn out.
Texan Bar owner Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) suspects his wife, Abby (Frances McDormand), of playing away with young barman Ray (John Getz), and has money to burn, in the hope that their corpses will be burning later, too. Step forward opportunistic but slow-on-the-uptake Private Detective Loren Visser (M Emmet Walsh), who trousers $10,000 for the job.
Watching it for the first time, 33 years after it was made, it comes across as an expert Tales of the Unexpected-type episode, or any of those dramas where everything that can go wrong… does go wrong. Of course, someone’s got to win in this… maybe. And that’s a great plus point, as you never know how every last moment is going to go. There are one or two elements where characters are a bit dumb (without spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, I can just say ‘light switch’), but while it does feel rather uneven at times as a result, there are some brilliant scenes in this, which make it a must-watch.
In addition, there are a number of surreal flashes of genius, all leading to a strong finale which I didn’t see coming, as well as a deliciously brilliant final scene.
Of the main cast, Dan Hedaya and M Emmet Walsh are my favourites here. John Getz is fine, and I’ve never been a particular fan of Frances McDormand, but the talent from the Coens wins out.
Finally, not only was Blood Simple the Coen Brothers’ first collaboration with composer Carter Burwell, but it was also the brothers’ feature-length directorial debut. I’ve loved most of their films, with the odd exception like No Country for Old Men and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which just didn’t grab me at all, so with the feeling I got from Blood Simple, I wouldn’t have ever thought this was their first.
The film is presented in the theatrical 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio and in 1080p high definition for a Blu-ray, and while the movie was shot on 35mm, the print’s often quite soft. The daytime scenes also look a bit grainy, given that it’s not aged perfectly.
The restoration was taken from the original 35mm negative and scanned in 16-bit 4K resolution, with colour correction and the restoration itself supervised by the Coens with director of photgraphy Barry Sonnenfield
The sound is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with a new 5.1 audio mix from sound editor Skip Lievsay, but I found this was more for ambience rather than anything in terms of major FX.
The extras are as follows:
- Intro by Mortimer Young (1:53): A pretend-type intro which, as I hadn’t seen the film, I still waited until afterwards before watching. Don’t worry, it won’t spoil your enjoyment i fyou’re a newbie to Blood Simple like me.
- Interviews: These begin with Joel and Ethan Coen (14:28), who talk about what got them into filmmaking in the first place, and the things they learned on the set of this movie. Also, the director’s cut came about because they felt they could improve the movie, later on.
This is followed by chat from M Emmet Walsh (14:12), John Getz (11:35) and Frances McDormand (25:05).
- Fake Trailer (2:08): This recreates some scenes from the film, but doesn’t show you the cast, themselves. Why? That’s because this was the short film they made to then take round people’s homes and work places with a view to securing investment to make the movie, eventually raising the $1.5m required.
The menu mixes a static image (which I won’t describe as you’ll discover that once you watch the film), set against a piece of the score. Chapters are a woeful 9 (how many times have I said that one every five minutes is ideal??), but on the plus side, there are English subtitles.
Running time: 96 minutes
Released: October 30th 2017
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen: 1.85:1 (35mm)
Disc Format: BD50
Directors: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Producers: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Screenplay: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Music: Carter Burwell
Ray: John Getz
Abby: Frances McDormand
Julian Marty: Dan Hedaya
Private Detective Loren Visser: M Emmet Walsh
Meurice: Samm-Art Williams
Debra: Deborah Neumann
Landlady: Raquel Gavia
Man from Lubbock: Van Brooks
Mr. Garcia: Señor Marco
Helene Trend: Holly Hunter (voice) (uncredited)
Marty’s Vomiting: Barry Sonnenfeld (voice) (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.