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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

Blood Simple (1984)


Cast:

  • Joel Coen, Director/Writer

  • Ethan Coen, Writer

  • Carter Burwell, Music

  • John Getz as Ray

  • Frances McDormand as Abby

  • Dan Hedaya as Julian Marty

  • M. Emmet Walsh as Loren Visser

  • Samm-Art Williams as Meurice


*Recognition:

  • Blood Simple was first shown at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 1984, but would not be officially released until October 1984.

  • It would go on to win the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival that year.

  • While the box office was $2.7 million worldwide, it received mostly critical acclaim.

  • This is both the feature film debut for both Joel and Ethan Coen as producer(s)/director(s), but also 3x Oscar winner, Frances McDormand.

  • Blood Simple currently holds a 94% among critics on RT, an 84 score on Metacritic, and a 3.9/5 on Letterboxd.


What is this movie about?/Elevator Pitch: Misunderstandings and miscommunication can have deadly consequences.


Plot Summary: "Blood Simple," directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, is a neo-noir thriller that unravels a web of deceit and violence in the sweltering Texas landscape. The film follows a bar owner, played by Dan Hedaya, who suspects his wife, portrayed by Frances McDormand, of infidelity. When he hires a private investigator, played by M. Emmet Walsh, to confirm his suspicions, the situation takes a dark and twisted turn.


The Coen brothers masterfully blend suspense, dark humor, and stark visuals, creating a tension-laden narrative where misunderstandings and ruthless choices lead to a series of unpredictable and bloody consequences. "Blood Simple" is a gripping exploration of human frailty and moral ambiguity, showcasing the Coen brothers' distinctive style and storytelling prowess.


Did You Know:

  • On the advice of Sam Raimi, the Coens went door-to-door showing potential investors a two minute 'trailer' of the film they planned to make. They ultimately raised $750,000 in a little over a year, enough to begin production of the movie.

  • The Directors' Cut is actually three minutes shorter than the feature release.

  • Though M. Emmet Walsh's character is never called by name in the film, he is named Loren Visser in the script. In the film, the name "Loren" can be seen engraved on his Zippo lighter. Also engraved on the edge of the lighter is "Elks Man of the Year".

  • Joel Coen and Frances McDormand first met when she auditioned for the part of Abby. They married after the release of the film.

  • The title is based on a phrase from the Dashiell Hammett novel "Red Harvest," in which "blood simple" is a term coined to describe the addled, fearful mindset people are in after a prolonged immersion in violent situations. Blood Simple writers Joel Coen and Ethan Coen later made Miller's Crossing (1990), which is loosely based on that novel.


Best Performance: M. Emmet Walsh (Visser)/Joel and Ethan Coen (Writers/Directors/Producers)

Best Secondary Performance: John Getz (Ray)/Dan Hedaya (Marty)

Most Charismatic Award: Frances McDormand (Abby)/Coen Brothers (Writers/Directors/Producers)

Best Scene:

  • On the Road

  • Visser and Marty

  • Ray Talks to Marty

  • Visser Kills Marty

  • Ray Cleans Up

  • Burying Marty

  • Ray and Abby

  • Final Attack

Favorite Scene: Final Attack/Visser Kills Marty

Most Indelible Moment: Visser with the Knife in his Hand


In Memorium:

  • Peter Berkos, 101, American sound editor (The Hindenburg, Slap Shot, Touch of Evil, The Sting, The Great Waldo Pepper), Oscar winner (1975).

  • Mickey Cottrell, 79, American film publicist and actor (My Own Private Idaho, Volcano, Ed Wood)

  • Christian Oliver, 51, German actor (Speed Racer, The Good German, Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Valkyrie)

  • Harry Johnson, 81, American actor (Battlestar Galactica, Law & Order, Need for Speed) and author.

  • Larry Collins, 79, American guitarist (The Collins Kids) and songwriter ("Delta Dawn")

  • Sarah Rice, 68, American actress (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) and singer

  • Adan Canto, 42, Mexican actor (X:Men: Days of Future Past, The Cleaning Lady, Designated Survivor, and The Following)

  • Cindy Morgan, 69, American actress (Tron, Caddyshack)

  • David Soul, 80, American-British actor (Starsky & Hutch, Magnum Force) and singer ("Don't Give Up on Us").

  • Glynis Johns, 100, British actress (Mary Poppins and The Sundowners), Tony winner (1973) for A Little Night Music.


Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Private Detective Visser: [narrating] The world is full o' complainers. An' the fact is, nothin' comes with a guarantee. Now I don't care if you're the pope of Rome, President of the United States or Man of the Year; somethin' can all go wrong. Now go on ahead, y'know, complain, tell your problems to your neighbor, ask for help, 'n watch him fly. Now, in Russia, they got it mapped out so that everyone pulls for everyone else... that's the theory, anyway. But what I know about is Texas, an' down here... you're on your own.


Ray: Never point a gun at anyone, unless you mean to shoot him. And if you shoot him, you better make sure he's dead. Because if he ain't dead, he's gonna get up and try to kill you. That's the only thing they taught us in the service that's worth a god damn.


Marty: [to Ray, out in back of the bar] You a fuckin' marriage counselor? What are you smilin' at? I'm funny? Right? I'm an asshole? No, no, no, no, no, no. That's not what's funny. What's funny is her. What's funny is, that I had you two followed, because if it's not you she's sleeping with, it's someone else. And what's really gonna be funny, is when she gives you that innocent look and says, "I don't know what you're talkin' about, Ray, I ain't done anything funny" But the funniest thing to me, right now, is that you think that she came back here for you. That's what's fuckin' funny!


Ray: He was alive when I buried him.


Private Detective Visser: You know, you know, a friend of mine a while back broke his hand and put it in a cast. Very next day, he falls, protects his bad hand, and he breaks his good one. So he breaks it too, you know. So, now he's got two busted flippers. So, I says to him: "Creighton," I says. "I hope your wife really loves you, because for the next five weeks, you can't even wipe your own god damn ass." [laughs] That's the test, ain't it? Test of true love.


Marty: I'll give you 10,000 dollars.

Private Detective Visser: Now I... do a murder. Two murders. Trust you not to go simple on me and do something stupid. I mean, really stupid. Now, why should I trust you?

Marty: For the money.

Private Detective Visser: For money. Yeah, that's a right smart of money. In Russia, they make only 50 cent a day.


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 4.75

Impact/Significance: 4.5

Novelty: 5.25

Classic-ness: 5.5

Rewatchability: 6.5

Audience Score: 8.4 (80% Google, 88% RT)

Total: 34.9


Remaining Questions:

  • What happened to the lighter?

  • How does the gun go off accidentally by kicking it?

  • How do you get blood stains out of wood flooring?

  • When you find the gun, why do you touch it?

  • Why didn't Ray just press Marty's right hand around the gun?

  • How did Visser go from a roof across the street to the hallway several floors up in a few seconds?

  • Why is Abby so seemingly paralyzed during the final confrontation?

  • Why does Abby think Marty is attacking her at the end?

  • Why does Visser turn on Marty?

  • How did no one call the cops?

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