Before Fargo: Blood Simple. (Joel Coen, 1984)
January 17 & January 18, Midnight | Buy Tickets
1. A Thriller of Misconceptions and Bad Hunches
Only the viewer gets the full picture in what’s going on between sleazy bar owner Marty (Dan Hedaya), his adulterous wife Abby (Frances McDormand, in her first film) and her dopey new good ol’ boy squeeze Ray (John Getz). The characters read their situation the best way they know how, and they almost always make the wrong choice or make the wrong assumption.
2. Great posters, this movie.
All sleaze and sex and violence.
3. I goddamn love M. Emmet Walsh.
He’s the joker card in Blood Simple, the element in the deck that can throw things out of balance when accidentally dealt. As scummy P.I. Loren Visser, Walsh embodies sleaze in that gross, puke-yellow leisure suit and that grubby little Volkswagon. There’s a calculated brutality beneath his carefree swagger, and something off-putting about his lazy, high-pitched voice matched against that large frame. He also hits on teenagers, the patented move of the scumbag baller.
4. Whoosh Whoosh Whoosh Whoosh
With the whoosh of a ceiling fan, the flip/flop of windshield wipers, the thump of a dog’s tail, the sound design here almost becomes part of the score. There’s always some kind of hum or drone going on in the background, giving everything a kind of rumbling sense of dread.
5. Dan Hedaya.
6. Masculine Repression
Abby sums it up pretty nicely: “When [Marty] doesn’t say things, they’re usually nasty. When you [Ray] don’t, they’re usually nice.” Both Marty and Ray’s get screwed because of their inability to communicate, and both men express love through violent action.
Marty’s too much of an angry shit to express to Abby that he actually loves her, which is why she runs off with a total schmuck. He’d rather kill Abby than stand seeing her with another man. Ray kills a man not out of vengeance, but to protect the woman he loves. His motivations are purer, but they still end up at the same ugly place.
7. No Easy Fixes
Ray tossing the towel over his blood soaked backseat is a pretty clever visual metaphor. It conceals the crime just long enough for him to get rid of a concerned friend, but it doesn’t take long for the blood to start soaking through.
8. Pauline Kael
I always assume that everyone likes Blood Simple, but Pauline Kael definitely didn’t. In her lengthy takedown of the film (review starts on page two, after her Witness review, which she didn’t like much either), she admires the Coens’ ability to craft a shot, but dismisses their attempt to elevate the genre and takes a few shots at the young directors’ ability to work with actors. She also takes a backhanded jab at Night of the Living Dead, so what the hell does Pauline Kael know?
9. Good dog.
Though, Kael is definitely right about Marty’s dog disappearing half-way through the movie. Who’s taking care of that German Shepherd? Everyone seems to like the dog, he jumps through car windows like nobody’s business, classic good dog behavior, but eventually nobody even thinks twice about it. Who’s feeding the dog?!
10. It’s the same old song
“It’s The Same Old Song” pops up a few times in Blood Simple. A classic upbeat song that’s sadder than it sounds, it’s about a man whose woman leaves him and now whenever he hears their song on the radio he finds that the happiness he once associated with it has festered, leaving him feeling cold and sad.
Blood Simple is a story of broken hearts. Marty loved Abby until she ran off with Ray. Abby loved Ray until she thinks he’s killed someone. Ray loved Abby until he suspects she’s framing him for murder. All of them yearn for happier times with one or the other, but those happy memories have become poisonous. It’s the same old song with a different meaning. Get it?