‘Blood Simple’: The Best of The Coens and McDormand?

In 1984, I used to subscribe to film and cinema magazines. (No internet then, don’t forget) There was a lot of ‘buzz’ about a new film soon to be released in the UK. It was called ‘Blood Simple’, and being described as ‘Film Noir for the 1980s’.

Back then, I had never heard of the Coen brothers, or the female lead, actress Frances McDormand. But I had heard of John Getz, the menacing Dan Hedaya, and M. Emmet Walsh. I read in my magazines that this was a family affair. As well as the two brothers writing, producing, and directing, one of them (Joel) was married to McDormand.

The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival too, so it seemed like something I should be watching. One of the good things about living in London then is that there were a lot of cinemas. You could find one showing virtually anything you wanted to watch, seven days a week. And though I lived in Wimbledon at the time, I owned a motorcycle, which meant I could avoid the heavy traffic, and then park for free on a motorcyle bay.

Off I went, to a late afternoon showing before going into work for a night shift later.

I will give you some idea what it’s about of course, but I will start by saying that I loved it. Dark, edgy, violent, and also very humourous at times. Great performances from Getz and Hedaya, who rarely got lead roles, and the ever-reliable M. Emmet Walsh. And that new girl, a Frances McDormand before she started to take herself seriously as a ‘film star’ with a lot of opinions. She was good too. Really good.

Sets, location filming, lighting, good direction from the Coens, and a snappy script. All spot-on.

It is a familiar story. An unhappily-married woman is having an affair. Her husband suspects, and has hired a private detective to spy on them. After that, it stays in still more familiar territory. A dead body, (or is it?) confusion about who killed him, and subsequent disposal of said body. The detective becomes personally involved, (Walsh on top form) and then everything starts to go terribly wrong. That’s about it, with no spoliers.

What makes it so good is the darkness. The dark violence, that dark humour that is interjected, and the scenes filmed at night. It really was ‘Film Noir for the 1980s’ after all.

And for my money it remains the best film the Coens have made, along with the best performance from a younger, fresher McDormand.

32 thoughts on “‘Blood Simple’: The Best of The Coens and McDormand?

  1. You’ve sold ‘Blood Simple’ to me, Pete. Seen a fair few Coen films but not this one. Didn’t realise the Coen’s had been around so long.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoy almost all the Coen brothers movies, Pete; but then I tend to be bias because they are hometown boys, and also I recognize a great many of their locations and they use a lot of local actors. They got off to a great start with Blood Simple that’s for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. (1) A motorcycle bay is not to be confused with a michael bay, although both have a connection with cinema.
    (2) I’m going to inject my opinion. “Blood Simple” is simply great! (Therefore, my opinion Coen-cides with yours.)
    (3) There’s even a clueless alien walking a tightrope on Mulholland Drive who thinks Dan Hedaya is to die for!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I did see Fargo.
      My opinion of the film is not a popular one. I thought she overplayed her role. Though that said, the film held up because of everyone else in an unusual cast. I have seen many of their films. I am a fan of ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’, ‘No Country For Old Men’, ‘Miller’s Crossing’, ‘The Hudsucker Proxy’, ‘The Big Lebowski’, and ‘Barton Fink’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Peggy. It’s probably on one of the streaming services by now. I used to have a copy on VHS, until I moved here from London and had to throw them all away. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the Coens, but never watched this one. It sounds brilliant. You know how I love a bit of darkness, a bit of violence, and a bit of a modern noir. This is definitely going to be watched!


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