Blood Simple

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This article is about the film. For the metal band, see Bloodsimple.
Blood Simple
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
Produced by Ethan Coen
Joel Coen (uncredited)
Written by Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
Starring John Getz
Frances McDormand
Dan Hedaya
Samm-Art Williams
M. Emmet Walsh
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography Barry Sonnenfeld
Edited by Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
(as Roderick Jaynes)
Don Wiegmann
River Road Productions
Foxton Entertainment
Distributed by Circle Films (1985)
USA Films (2000)
Release dates
September 7, 1984 (1984-09-07)
(Toronto International Film Festival)
October 12, 1984 (1984-10-12)
(New York Film Festival)
January 18, 1985 (USA)
Running time
99 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Box office $3,851,855[2]

Blood Simple is a 1984 neo-noir crime film written, edited, produced and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It was the directorial debut of the Coens and the first major film of cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld, who later became a noted director, as well as the feature film debut of Joel Coen's wife Frances McDormand, who subsequently starred in many of his features.

The film's title derives from the Dashiell Hammett novel Red Harvest (1929), in which the term "blood simple" describes the addled, fearful mindset of people after a prolonged immersion in violent situations.[3]

In 2001, a "Director's Cut" DVD was released. It ranked #98 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills. The film also placed #73 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.


Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya), who owns a Texas bar, suspects his wife Abby (Frances McDormand) is having an affair with one of his bartenders, Ray (John Getz). Marty hires private detective Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) to take photos of Ray and Abby in bed at a local motel. The morning after their tryst, Marty makes a menacing phone call to them, making it clear he is aware of their relationship.

The following day, Ray confronts Marty and quits his job. Marty threatens Ray's life and advises him to not trust Abby. Marty then hires Visser to kill the couple while he takes a fishing trip to Corpus Christi to establish an alibi. Visser breaks into Ray's home, steals Abby's gun, and photographs the sleeping couple through the bedroom window. Later, he presents doctored photos of their corpses to Marty when collecting his $10,000 fee. He then shoots Marty with Abby's gun in a double cross, leaving the gun at the scene to frame Abby for Marty's murder.

Later that evening, Ray returns to the bar and, finding a motionless Marty and Abby's gun, assumes Abby murdered her husband. He decides to cover up the murder, cleans up the blood, and disposes of evidence in a backyard incinerator. Ray then drives to a remote field and digs a hole to dispose of Marty's body, but discovers that Marty is still alive. He throws Marty in the hole and buries him alive. Afterward, Ray calls Abby, and she thanks him for calling her in the morning, but he misinterprets this as her gratitude for his role in Marty's murder.

Visser burns the doctored photos but realizes one is missing; Marty had locked it in the bar's safe. Visser also realizes he left his cigarette lighter in Marty's office. Meanwhile, Ray visits Abby and tells her, "I cleaned up your mess", not realizing she does not know what Ray is talking about. Ray assumes Abby is being coy, and they begin to argue. They are interrupted by a telephone call from Visser, who says nothing. Abby assumes Marty is calling her and tells Ray. However, Ray assumes Abby is lying and storms out.

Confused by Ray's behavior, Abby goes to the bar to find it ransacked; Visser had been trying to break into the safe but was interrupted by Abby's arrival. Observing the scene, Abby now thinks Ray killed Marty because of a money dispute. She accuses Ray of this the next time they meet, but he explains that he found her gun at the bar and that he buried Marty alive. Ray returns once more to the bar and opens the safe, finding Visser's faked photo. He realizes he is being followed as he leaves for Abby's apartment.

When Abby arrives home that night, she turns on a light and finds Ray looking out the large window. He tells Abby to turn off the light, because someone is watching them from across the street. Abby thinks Ray is threatening her and turns the light back on. Visser is on a nearby rooftop with a rifle, and seeing Ray in the window, shoots him dead. Realizing Ray was right, Abby knocks out the light. She hides in the bathroom just as Visser arrives. Visser goes to the bathroom to kill Abby, who is not there. Reaching out the window, he opens the window to the next room, but Abby slams it down on his wrist and drives a knife through his hand. Visser shoots holes through the wall, punches through, and removes the knife. Abby retreats and waits behind the bathroom door, holding a gun.

As Visser is about to emerge, she fires through the door, hitting Visser. "I'm not afraid of you, Marty", Abby says. Visser, lying on the bathroom floor, mortally wounded, abruptly bursts into cackling laughter. He says: "Well, ma'am, if I see 'im, I'll sure give 'im the message." Visser attempts to focus his vision on a water droplet forming on the pipes under the sink, and The Four Tops' "It's the Same Old Song" (1965) plays as the film ends.



While the film was only a modest box office success, it was a huge critical success. The film currently holds a 94% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where its critical consensus reads: "Brutally violent and shockingly funny in equal measure, Blood Simple offers early evidence of the Coen Brothers' twisted sensibilities and filmmaking ingenuity."[4]

"Director's Cut" and home media[edit]


The film was released on VHS tape in 1995 with a 99-minute running time,[citation needed] and, after the film had been re-released theatrically in 1998 (premiering at the Austin Film Festival on October 3[citation needed]) as a "Director's Cut" with a 96-minute running time, this version was released on DVD in 2001.[citation needed] This shorter version was released again on DVD in 2008 by MGM.[citation needed]

Unusual for such an exercise, the "Director's Cut" is some three minutes shorter than the original 1985 theatrical release. The Coens reduced the running time with tighter editing, shortening some shots, and removing others altogether. Additionally, they resolved long-standing rights issues with the music: the original theatrical version of the film made prominent use of The Four Tops' "It's the Same Old Song" (1965); the Coens had replaced it with Neil Diamond's "I'm a Believer" (1966) for the 1995 U.S. home video edition on VHS. The "Director's Cut" reinstated the Four Tops track.[5]

2001 DVD release[edit]

The 2001 DVD release features several spoofs of DVD "special features". One is an introduction to the film by fictional film historian "Mortimer Young", who claims the "Director's Cut" removes some of "the boring bits" and adds other parts; this was also included in the theatrical release of the "Director's Cut".[citation needed]

The 2001 DVD release also includes an audio commentary by "Kenneth Loring", the fictional artistic director of the equally fictional "Forever Young Films". Loring offers several entirely spurious "facts": for example, he claims the scene with Ray and Abby driving in the rain, talking about Marty, was acted out in reverse as well as upside down, to synch the headlights of the passing car just as certain lines were said. (He claims filming the scene backwards and upside down was the logical choice to get the timing right, and the actors are wearing hair spray to keep their hair pointing "down".) Elsewhere in the commentary, he claims that, in scenes with both dialogue and music, the actors simply mouth the words and record them in post-production, so they won't interfere with the music; that Marty's dog is animatronic; that the sweat on various actors is "movie sweat", gathered from the flanks of Palomino horses; that Fred Astaire and Rosemary Clooney were at one time intended for the film; and that a fly buzzing about is not real, but the product of computer generated imagery. "Loring" is voiced by actor Jim Piddock, using a script written by the Coen brothers.[citation needed]

2008 MGM release[edit]

The 2008 MGM release is a barebones DVD edition of the 96-minute "Director's Cut", billed as Blood Simple: Director's Cut with no commentary or extras.[citation needed]


Original Motion Picture Soundtracks: Raising Arizona and Blood Simple
Soundtrack album by Carter Burwell
Released 1987
Genre Film score
Length 39:26
Label Varèse Sarabande
Coen Brothers film soundtracks chronology
Blood Simple.
Raising Arizona
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars [6]

Carter Burwell wrote the Blood Simple score, the first of his collaborations with the Coen Brothers; he went on to write scores for all of their films.[citation needed] Blood Simple was also the first feature film score for Burwell, and he became a much-in-demand composer in Hollywood.[citation needed]

The score is a mix of solo piano and electronic ambient sounds. One track, "Monkey Chant", is based on kecak, the "Ramayana Monkey Chant" of Bali.[citation needed]

In 1987, seven selections from Burwell's Blood Simple score were released on, and comprise the final tracks on, a 17-track album that also features selections from the soundtrack of Coens' next film, Raising Arizona (1987).[citation needed]

Blood Simple selections on the 1987 album:

  1. "Crash and Burn" – (2:40)
  2. "Blood Simple" – (3:33)
  3. "Chain Gang" – (4:47)
  4. "The March" – (3:34)
  5. "Monkey Chant" – (1:04)
  6. "The Shooting" – (2:52)
  7. "Blood Simpler" – (1:22)
Other songs from the film that are not on the album
[citation needed]

Chinese Remake[edit]

In December 2009, Zhang Yimou released a loose remake of the film as a comedy. The film, titled A Simple Noodle Story (known internationally as A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop), is set in a Chinese noodle shop in a desert and revolves around the restaurant owner's plan to murder his adulterous wife and her lover.[7]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Falsani, Cathleen. (2009). The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. p. 31. 
  4. ^ "Blood Simple (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  5. ^ Beckett, david (March 27, 2013). "Blood Simple - Director's Cut (2013) DVD". Film 365. 
  6. ^ Blood Simple at AllMusic
  7. ^ Graser, Marc (28 July 2009). "SPC to distribute Yimou's 'Blood': Chinese director remaking Coen brothers' pic". Variety. New York: Reed Business Information. Retrieved 30 November 2011. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Old Enough
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic
Succeeded by
Smooth Talk