In the first film of brothers Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, M. Emmett Walsh plays Visser, an unscrupulous private eye hired by Texas bar owner Marty (Dan Hedaya) to murder Marty's faithless wife Abby (Frances McDormand) and her paramour, Ray (John Getz), one of Marty's employees. But Visser is no more up-front with Marty than with anyone else; he makes some slight modifications of the original plan so that it better serves his own best interests. After a surprise double-cross and the murder of one of the important players, matters spiral out of control, and the plot gyrates through a complicated string of darkly humorous events. False assumptions, guilt, and fear all lead to a frantic attempt to conceal evidence and the heart-pounding, irony-filled denouement. Blood Simple was re-released in the summer of 2000 with a digitally-remastered soundtrack and -- at the Coens' behest -- a few minutes of dialogue trimmed.~Hal Erickson
New conversation between Sonnenfeld and the Coens about the film's look, featuring Telestrator video illustrations
New conversation between author Dave Eggers and the Coens about the film's production, from inception to release
New interviews with Composer Carter Burwell, Sound Mixer Skip Livesay, and actors Frances McDormand and M. Emmet Walsh
New, restored 4k digital transfer, approved by Cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld and Filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen
Plus: An essay by novelist and critic Nathaniel Rich
Criterion has given The Coen Brothers debut the treatment it deserves with this stunning release. Blood Simple is a dark, cynical tale that harks back to the days of Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson. A story centering around a jealous husbands' obsession over his wife's infidelity which eventually leads to murder at the hands of a psychotic private eye played by M. Emmet Walsh. Walsh here is at his best as the P.I. Vesser who is in the Frank Booth school of scary psychopath who seems to be having a bit of fun with his deeds at times. His opening narration over the Texas landscape sets up the film's dark tone perfectly. Dan Hedaya also gives one of his best performances as the jealous husband Marty who emotes vengeance and desperation although does show some inner conflict before he sets forth destruction across the Texas landscape. John Getz and Francis McDormand are both wonderful as well as the lovers and targets of Marty's vengeance.
The movie has been given a gorgeous new 4K transfer that is pure perfection. Blood Simple is a low-budget affair so some shots still remain a little rough due to the source but I wouldn't have it any other way. For a dark and cynical film having anything other than roughness would feel out of place especially when filming these landscapes. The sound quality was a huge bump over my old MGM DVD sporting a new lossless 5.1 mix that is faithful to the original. Also included are the Criterion Collection's signature abundance of extras. The new conversation with cinematographer Barry Sonnefeld and the Coens is enlightening and plays a bit more like a commentary as the talk through certain scenes from the movie pointing out how they made the film look the way it did. Probably one of the best in-depth interviews like this I've seen in a while and hopefully a model for future Criterion releases. Also worth noting this has a sit down with Emmet Walsh which was a real treat and gave some background on how an already experienced actor got involved with these first-time directors. The rest of the extras are also fairly lengthy including an interview with Francis McDormand, a conversation between the Coens and author Robert Eggers about the film's production and an interview with the film's music composer Carter Burwell and sound mixes Skip Lievsay. Sadly no interview with Dan Hedaya but I don't think I've seen him do many interviews for DVD/Blu-ray releases.
Overall this film is a Noir masterpiece that next to No Country for Old Men is Coen Brothers at their bleakest. Criterion has given it the treatment that it's longingly deserves and leaves no room for improvement. From the opening narration to the closing scene with "It's The Same Old Song" playing you'll be in for a dark and suspenseful ride through the Texas landscape. Fabulous and highly recommended.