Blood Simple was first released in 1984 but was rereleased into theaters in 2000 with a new director’s cut. I don’t know how much is changed from the original. Both the picture and sound seemed a lot crisper, but I’d only watched a free video version before. So I can only state that a large theater equipped with THX sound greatly enhances the film. Cleverly, the Coens begin this version with a short Cecil B. De Mille-like introduction by the head of Forever Young Productions (or so he says) that states that “the boring parts have been taken out and other things were added.”
Perhaps this is actually true because I certainly didn’t watch any boring parts at all. The introduction itself was better than most of the summer blockbuster fare, and I already knew that I had enjoyed my one previous video watch Blood Simple online. What a feast for the eyes and ears!
The opening shot on a lonely Texas road, with a large slab of a blown-out tire, lets us know that we’re not seeing an ordinary Hollywood movie. Then we hear the voice of M. Emmet Walsh narrate off-screen:
The world is full of complainers. But the fact is, nothing comes with a guarantee. I don’t care if you’re the Pope of Rome, President of the United States, or Man of the Year, something can all go wrong.
There’s also plenty of blood too, but this is a dark comedy similar to the Coen brothers’ 1997 Fargo, in rougher and more pristine form. Many of the same elements are here—the plot complications, the lowlife characters, the tongue-in-cheek dialogue, the tight editing, and visual imagery.
The Twist Will Surprise You
The plot starts out simply enough, with a jealous husband (Dan Hedaya as Marty) hiring private detective Loren Vissor (Walsh) to follow his estranged wife, Abby (Frances McDormand) and her suspected lover, Ray (John Getz). After Vissor presents photographic evidence of adultery, Marty hires the detective to kill the two for $10,000. As I said, simple enough; however, murder is never simple – it seems there is always some detail that gets overlooked, and we can never be sure that the dead people remain fully dead. The Coen brothers take us on a veritable amusement ride of plot twists that seem totally outrageous, yet surprisingly make sense at each new turn. One of the biggest enjoyments I had was finally watching online a movie that wasn’t totally predictable like the standard Hollywood fare.
Don’t think that the Joel and Ethan Coen throw you some outrageous curve balls, however. They prepare us for each twist in subtle and not so subtle ways. For instance, the detective’s cigarette lighter was emphasized so much visually in two scenes that you can predict it will play a major part in messing up a “perfect” murder.
Inspired By Hitchcock’s Work
Blood Simple full movie is so tightly constructed that it reminds me of Hitchcock films in many ways. The Coens don’t throw in extraneous material; each scene requires complete attention as clues for coming events are continually tossed our way. Even a seemingly innocuous story that Detective Vissor tells Marty about a guy who ended up breaking bones in both his hands (requiring his wife to wipe his ass) connects to one of the movie’s themes. As Vissor says, “That’s the test, ain’t it? Test of true love.” We will later see Ray conduct uncharacteristic acts out of his love for Abby.
We have other Hitchcockian elements here as well. We have an innocent man becoming entangled in a murderous affair, the classic voyeuristic scenes with the detective, and even one of the finest scenes shot inside a moving car in a driving rain since Psycho. We parallel a Psycho audience because we actually know more about the overall situation, yet all we can do is helplessly watch Blood Simple free online and the surreal plot proceed to its inevitable climax. It’s like watching a classic Hitchcock movie with the Master of Suspense tripping on acid.
The Coen Brothers Did Great Job
Other pleasures you will find lie in the cinematography, editing, and the soundtrack. The Coen brothers are true artists who compose shots with the best of them. Some of my favorites include the opening rainstorm with the lightning that streaks across the windshield, the establishing shot of the car in the field after a burial that shows the telltale tire tracks, and the lighting effects as gunshots blast through the walls, near the end.
As convoluted as the plot becomes, it’s still easy to follow. Credit for that must go to the Coen brothers and Don Wiegmann for their editing skills. Some transitions I especially like are the ones that take us from Marty to Ray to Vissor through overhead fans. Another transition that is especially well-executed consists of Abby as she examines Marty’s office (with its broken glass). We see a close-up of her head as it begins to lean back against the wall, only to find that she is now back at her apartment lying on her pillow. A simple thing perhaps, but I found it quite expertly conceived.
I must mention the wonderful original music composed by Carter Burwell, who has created original music for the Coens in nearly all their movies (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, Miller’s Crossing). Mostly consisting of tentative and plaintive piano notes, the score is haunting, mysterious, and unforgettable. Don’t expect over-indulgent, sweeping, John Williams-style violins overpowering the film; a light piano melody or complete silence suffices. After all, you can’t hear footsteps when there’s too much background music.
Although the entire ensemble of actors contributes mightily to the movie, especially outstanding are M. Emmet Walsh (as the eccentric good ol’ boy detective), and Frances McDormand in her first major starring role. Their timing is impeccable. Walsh gets all the comical lines, and McDormand personifies innocence and vulnerability. Don’t push her into a corner though, as she is determined survivor. (She obviously impressed director Joel Coen since they’ve been a couple).
Joel and Ethan Coen have a long track record of innovative creations. People tend either to really like their films or hate them. Of all their movies, Fargo is the one that most closely resembles Blood Simple, so if you loved their 1997 masterpiece, you are required to watch the Coens’ original work. Though largely plot-driven with wackiness, both films demonstrate a deep understanding of character, show affection for their unique characters, and demonstrate mastery of cinematic art.
Shot on a low budget with relatively unknown actors, watch Blood Simple because the movie reigns as a supreme example of successful independent cinema. With its darkness, this movie is a true noir that, upon its limited rerelease, people got to enjoy on the big screen and online free for a limited time.
The mood is generally dark, as you’d expect in such a film noir, and I can’t say that the conclusion contains one of those “feel-good” endings that most American audiences have come to expect. However, the ending in Blood Simple is perfectly timed and is so outrageously humorous that I left the theater laughing and continue to chuckle each time I recall it. All the more reason for multiple viewings. Most will not be disappointed.