Blood Simple (1984) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

A powerful combination of talent kicked off their collaboration in Blood Simple. It marked the first of several efforts which paired the writing and directing of the Coen Brothers with the cinematography of Barry Sonnenfeld. In fact, they were all so talented that the only factor to break up the combination was the fact that Sonnenfeld wanted to give up cinematography so he could move on to direct his own films, an endeavor which proved to be highly successful. (MIB, Get Shorty, Addams Family)

Imagine if you were a complete sleazebag, so upset with your wife and her lover that you hire another complete sleazebag, a corrupt private detective, to kill them.

Imagine now that you are the private detective. Why should you kill two people for a stinkin' $10,000 when there is somebody out there who knows you did it? Wouldn't it be a lot easier to claim you killed them, grab the reward, then shoot the guy who hired you? Oh, yeah, might not be a bad idea to shoot the guy with his wife's gun!


But what if you are the wife's lover, and find the crime scene before the police. Would you try to hide the fact that the wife did it? But wouldn't that leave behind a trail suggesting that you did it yourself?

Oh, yeah, and better make sure the original sleazebag is actually dead before you start disposing of that body.

This is a really memorable exercise in film noir, both written and shot with stunning originality of thought, a film that put the Coen brothers on the map. Some reviewers claimed that it was the best film debut since Orson Welles himself, and that may not be exaggeration. It was also Frances McDormand's debut as the stunningly kittenish wife, far different from the McDormand we know today.

If you like a truly dark story, this has all the sleaze you need, combined with stylized violence, intricate plot twists, overwhelming fear of being caught, mad killers skulking women in dark warehouses, and enough murky atmosphere for the planet Jupiter.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • Full-length commentary by "Kenneth Loring of Forever Young films" (it's a put-on)

The "anniversary special edition", however, is pretty odd stuff. There are some minor changes in the edit, a facetious introduction and equally facetious commentary by a non-existent film critic.

Did you know

  • that the opening scene in the car was filmed backwards and with the actors hanging upside-down while mouthing the syllables backwards?
  • although the nude scene was composed so that the nether regions were excluded from the audience's sight, the crew could see the naughty bits. The lead actor was so well-hung that a female crew member fainted when he left the bed.
  • it was cheaper to create an animatronic dog than to train a real one, and also "there's no licking the genitals, or jumping up on the snacks table"
  • the filmmakers originally intended much of the action to take place in Bulgaria

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 4/4, Maltin 3/4, Apollo 86.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 100% positive reviews

  • won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.8/10, Apollo users an identical 78/100
  • With their dollars ... it grossed only $2 million domestically
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Noir masterpiece, but probably too dark for mainstream filmgoers.

Return to the Movie House home page