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Blood Simple

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 American neo-noir psychological crime thriller 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.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Reception 3
  • "Director's Cut" and home media 4
    • Versions 4.1
    • 2001 DVD release 4.2
    • 2008 MGM release 4.3
  • Soundtrack 5
  • Chinese Remake 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


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). She protects herself with a revolver and three bullets (at least 2 of the 3 rounds appear to have been fired before the pistol is used in the movie).

Marty hires private detective Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) to take photos of Ray and Abby in bed at a local motel. Visser phones them while they are in the motel room, but remains silent.

When Visser reports back to Marty, he teases Marty about being cuckolded. The morning after their tryst, Marty makes a silent phone call to Ray and Abby.

The following day, Ray confronts Marty and quits his job. Marty threatens Ray's life and advises him to not trust Abby, that she will one day tell him she "hasn't done anything funny," and he won't believe her.

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.

Visser presents a photo of their corpses to Marty who dumps four dead fish on his desk. He goes to the bathroom to vomit, then opens the safe to give Visser his $10,000 fee. Visser then shoots Marty with Abby's gun in a double cross, leaving her gun at the scene, and accidentally leaving his cigarette lighter.

Ray returns to the bar to get his last paycheck. He accidentally kicks Abby's gun firing it. He finds a motionless Marty. He decides to cover up the murder, cleans up the blood, and disposes of evidence in a backyard incinerator, loading Marty's body and Abby's gun into his back seat. While Ray is driving down a lonely country road to dispose of the body he sees that Marty is still alive and stops the car and runs into a field. When he catches his breath and returns to the car, Marty is out of the car and slowly crawling down the center of the road. Ray struggles to get him back into the car as traffic approaches. The scene jumps to Ray digging a grave in a huge freshly plowed field. He throws Marty and Abby's gun in to the hole. This act shows how confused Ray was by putting the murder weapon and the body together. Marty pulls the gun out and tries to shoot Ray repeatedly, but the gun just makes a clicking noise not reaching the one remaining bullet in the cylinder. Ray takes the gun and buries Marty alive. Ray calls Abby from a phone booth and tells her he loves her, and she thanks him.

Visser burns the doctored photos, but realizes one is missing; He decides Marty must have locked it in the bar's safe when he was taking out his payment. Visser also realizes he left his cigarette lighter in Marty's office.

A distraught Ray tells Abby, "I cleaned up your mess". Abby insists she "hasn't done anything funny." They argue. They are interrupted by a telephone call from Visser, who says nothing. Abby tells Ray that it was Marty again. A confused Ray storms out.

The other bartender, Meurice, listens to several old phone messages from Marty, accusing him or Ray of stealing money from the safe. Meurice arrives at Ray's house and accuses him of stealing money from the safe. Ray is silent, hiding the blood in the backseat of his car.

Visser goes to the bar to get the photo and the lighter. He takes a hammer to the safe, but is interrupted by Abby who wants to find out why Ray has been acting so strangely. Visser hides. Abby finds the bar ransacked.

Abby finds Ray packing to leave. She accuses Ray of having fought with Marty about money. Ray explains that he found her gun at the bar and that he buried Marty alive. Ray returns once more to the bar and finds Visser's faked photo. He realizes he is being followed as he leaves for Abby's apartment.

When Abby arrives home 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 bulb with her shoe. She hides in the bathroom as Visser arrives. Visser goes to the bathroom to kill Abby, muttering, "I don't know what you two think you were cooking up," but he finds the bathroom empty and the window open. Reaching out the window, he opens the window to the next room, but Abby slams the sash down on his wrist and drives a knife through his gloved hand into the sill. Visser shoots holes through the wall, punches through, and removes the knife. Abby retreats and waits behind the bathroom door, holding the gun Ray returned to her.

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, bursts into cackling laughter. "Well, ma'am, if I see 'im, I'll sure give 'im the message," he says. Visser attempts to focus his vision on a water droplet forming directly over his head, on the pipes under the bathroom sink. The Four Tops' "It's the Same Old Song" (1965) start to play and the droplet falls, then the screen fades to black.



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


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

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

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".

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.

2008 MGM release

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.


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 [6]

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

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.

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).

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

Chinese Remake

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

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