Blood Simple (Director’s Cut) (review)

Get new reviews in your email in-box or in an app by becoming a paid Substack subscriber or Patreon patron.

When Joel and Ethan Coen were approached about doing a DVD release of their debut feature flick, they figured, why not spiff it up a bit? The mono sound had to be redone anyway, and, well, you can’t just make one clean spot without the rest looking even worse by comparison, so Blood Simple ended up being re-edited (“We’ve taken out some of the boring parts,” says Ethan) and “digitally enhanced and tastefully restored,” in the words of the cheeky introduction that opens this new director’s cut, tweaking the whole idea of this kind of “film restoration,” which makes some film buffs uncomfortable. Debates about altering extant works of art aside, Blood Simple — so spiffed up that it warranted a new theatrical release — is still startling and stylish, despite a slew of half-baked imitations that have come along since its original release in 1984. A little slice of Texas noir, this is a gruesome, and often gruesomely funny, Hitchcockian bloodbath about the mistrust and suspicion — and, yes, murder — that adultery can breed. Bar owner Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya: The Hurricane) hires schlubby private detective Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh: The Iron Giant) to spy on his wife, Abby (Frances McDormand) — and then asks Visser to kill her and her lover, Ray (John Getz), an employee of Julian’s. But double and triple crosses abound, and all the wrong people end up dead. Long sections of the film streak by without any dialogue — this is visual storytelling at its best, full of dark shadows, guns in silhouette, scenes lit only by neon signs or cigarette lighters, and low, constant whup whup of ceiling fans like heartbeats in the background. As for that trash incinerator out back of Julian’s bar… remember the wood chipper in Fargo?

share and enjoy