Plot: What’s it about?
Marty (Dan Hedaya) suspects that his wife Abby (Frances McDormand) is having an affair, but he has no hard evidence to rest upon. So he hires a seedy private investigator, Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) to trail her and see what happens. As it turns out, Marty was right in his suspicions and Abby is cheating on him, with one of Marty’s own employees, Ray (John Getz). When Marty learns of this and even sees photos of the incident, he is very upset and even insults Visser, out of jealousy and of course, sheer anger. Abby stays with Ray for a while and has a run in with Marty, but it ends up harmless in the end, apart from Marty’s vomiting in the front yard. As time passes, Marty becomes more and more enraged by the recent events, so pays another visit to Visser, but this time, he wants real action to be taken. He agrees to hand over ten thousand dollars in exchange for the deaths of Abby and Ray, which seems like a good idea to Visser. So Marty heads out of town for a few days, Visser drops in on Abby and Ray, and this is where things really begin to spiral out of control, to a place where nothing is certain and trust does not exist.
It has been quite a wait for Blood Simple, but after a re-release in theaters, the feature film debut from the Coen brothers has arrived on DVD. Even if this isn’t the full blown special edition fans had wanted, the film looks & sounds great and a few supplements have been included, such as a riotous commentary track. This ultra dark thriller has such a simple story at first, but then unrolls into a complex web of chaos, it is a true writing masterwork, I think. A lot of movies have twists and turns, but Blood Simple has intricate ones and in truth, the real fun comes not from the twists, but how the richly woven characters deal with them. The characters are excellent and showcase the Coens’ writing skills, to be sure. Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, and M. Emmet Walsh all turn in superb performances, especially Walsh when he delivers some stinging lines. One of the best examples of modern film noir, Blood Simple is well written, performed, filmed, and it even has some nice touches of black humor dabbled in. I do wish Universal would have included the original theatrical version, but even so, this trimmed director’s cut of the film is well worth a look.
This might have been her feature film debut, but Oscar winner and Coen regular Frances McDormand performs like a seasoned veteran in Blood Simple. She is given a simple on the surface, but still unpredictable character to work with and she nails it, perhaps one of the finest turns in her career. I think this role would challenge most experienced actresses, but to think this was her first time out of the gate, that makes it all the more impressive. Her interaction with costars is excellent, especially the looks and subtle body language, very effective stuff. You can also see McDormand in such films as Fargo, Almost Famous, Darkman, Wonder Boys, Short Cuts, and Raising Arizona. The cast also includes Dan Hedaya (Joe Versus the Volcano, Dick), John Getz (Requiem for a Dream, Men at Work), and M. Emmet Walsh (The Jerk, Blade Runner).
Video: How does it look?
Blood Simple is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This was a very dark, low budget film made in 1983 and it sometimes shows, but I think Universal has done some tremendous work here. As this is a dark, shadow laden movie, the transfer has to work overtime, but it never falters, so it all looks great. The black levels are as sharp and on the mark as can be, so murkiness is minimal and detail is high, at least as high as it should be. The colors have a natural tone and look good also, while flesh tones are normal and warm, as intended. Although it might still look a little soft at times, this is about as good as Blood Simple can look.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included 2.0 surround option is by no means memorable, but it presents the material well, so no real complaints. I love the musical soundtrack, so I was pleased to find it in such fine form and as the most active element present. The sound effects spark the speakers here and there, but this movie relies more on subtle touches, as opposed to powerful ones. The dialogue is the main ingredient and it comes through well, no volume or clarity errors in the least to report. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes some talent files, production notes, and the film’s theatrical trailer. You’ll also find an audio commentary with Kenneth Loring from Forever Young films, who offers some insight into the production. This is not your usual session by any means, as Loring is quite the card and provides one of the most hilarious tracks of all time, bar none. A sort of spoof on the overly technical and self praising tracks out there, this one is a load of fun to listen to and has quickly become one of my favorites, very cool indeed.