Blood Simple on BluRay
by Del Harvey
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In 1984 no one had ever heard of Joel and Ethan Coen. No one had ever really heard of Francis McDormand. The brothers had written this great little film noir, a film that required only a few characters and locations, so the budget would be small. They attached two very well-respected character actors, Dan Hedaya and M. Emmett Walsh. And they hired a young cinematographer who had never filmed a feature before; Barry Sonnenfeld. Then they set to work and the rest, as they say, is history.
Blood Simple is one of those extremely rare occurrences in film history; an instant classic. And not in the way that term is loosely tossed about by the major studios’ press departments. No, Blood Simple is as much a classic of the noir genre as The Maltese Falcon or Mildred Pierce.
The story is perfect in its simplicity. The owner of a Texas bar, Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya), suspects his wife Abby (Frances McDormand) is having an affair with one of his bartenders, Ray (John Getz). A jealous and violent man, Marty hires low-rent private detective Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) to take photos of Ray and Abby in bed. The morning after their tryst, Marty makes a menacing phone call to them, making it clear he is well aware of their relationship.
The very next day, Ray confronts and confesses to Marty at the bar, quitting his job. Marty threatens Ray’s life and, out of spite, further advises him to not trust Abby. Marty hires Visser once again, this time to kill the couple while Marty takes a fishing trip in Corpus Christi, using the trip as his alibi. Visser breaks into Ray’s home, stealing Abby’s gun and photographing the sleeping couple through their bedroom window. Later, he presents photos of their corpses to Marty before collecting his $10,000 fee. Then, in a classic double cross, the scheming and greedy Visser shoots Marty with Abby’s gun. He leaves, forgetting he left behind his cigarette lighter under the string of fish Marty caught down in Corpus Christi. But he has the presence of mind to leave Abby’s gun at the scene, attempting to frame her for Marty’s murder.
Later that evening, Ray— quite alive —returns to the bar to collect his wages. Finding Marty’s body and Abby’s gun, Ray assumes Abby murdered her husband. He decides to cover up the murder, cleaning the office of Marty’s blood and disposing any evidence he finds in a backyard incinerator. Ray puts Marty’s body in his car and drives off to a remote rural field to dispose of it. However, Ray discovers that a bleeding Marty is still clinging to life. He is forced to throw Marty in a hole he has dug for him, burying him alive not long before sunrise. Ray calls Abby at a phone booth after leaving the scene; she thanks him for calling her in the morning, but he misinterprets this as her gratitude for his role in Marty’s murder.
The film spirals further out of control from that point on, with each character following intentional and unintentional misdirection and confusion piling upon misunderstanding until Visser finally breaks into Abby’s apartment, intent upon killing her. The final scenes are as harsh and dirty and cutthroat as Hitchcock’s best, and will leave the first-time viewer amazed.
The BluRay edition of Blood Simple releases on August 30th, 2011. Here are three clips from the film.
Blood Simple - Film Clip: “Finding Marty”
Blood Simple - Film Clip: “Surprise Visit”
From the celebrated filmmaking team of Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (Fargo, Raising Arizona), comes this visually stunning tale of a double-cross—and murder—in a small town. When the owner of a backwoods bar hires a man to kill his cheating wife and her boyfriend, he opens a door into the criminal world that he’ll never be able to shut. Blood Simple hurtles forward with the speed and intensity of a fired bullet…and delivers as devastating an impact as has ever been felt from a noir film!
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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