In 2001, a director's cut was released. It ranked #98 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills. The film also placed #73 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.
The film opens with a short voice-over monologue voiced by M. Emmet Walsh as various images of the Texas landscape are shown. The film then shifts to a conversation between Abby (Frances McDormand) and Ray (John Getz) in a car as it drives through a heavy downpour at night. They seem to be discussing Abby's bad marriage and Ray indicates that he's driving her to Houston. But instead of driving Abby to Houston, Ray drives to a motel and they have sex. We later find out that Abby's husband Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya), who owns a Texas bar, has suspected Abby's affair with Ray, one of his bartenders, so he hires a private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) to take photos of them.
When the detective reports back to Marty, he teases him about being cuckolded. The morning after their tryst, Marty makes a phone call to Ray and Abby, but says nothing.
The following day Ray goes to the bar to collect his pay for two weeks worth of work, but instead confronts Marty and quits his job. Marty threatens Ray's life and advises him not to trust Abby, that she will one day tell him she "hasn't done anything funny" and he won't believe her.
Marty then hires the detective to kill the couple. The detective suggests that Marty take a fishing trip to Corpus Christi to establish an alibi. He then breaks into Ray's home, steals Abby's gun, and photographs the sleeping couple through the bedroom window.
The detective presents a doctored photo of the couple's "corpses" to Marty as evidence that they have been killed. Marty asks about the bodies, and is told that they have been taken care of. Marty goes to the bathroom to vomit, then opens the safe to give the detective his $10,000 fee. The detective asks Marty if the money has been safely covered, and Marty says that it's been taken care of. The detective then shoots Marty with Abby's gun in a double cross, leaving her gun at the scene as evidence that she killed Marty. He accidentally leaves his cigarette lighter behind, and does not realize that Marty has stolen the incriminating photograph and locked it in the safe.
Ray returns to the bar to get his last paycheck and accidentally kicks Abby's gun, firing it. He finds a motionless Marty and decides to cover up the murder, which he assumes Abby has committed. He cleans up the blood and disposes of evidence in a backyard incinerator, loading Marty's body into his back seat with Abby's gun in the body's coat pocket. While Ray is driving down a lonely country road at night 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 slowly crawling down the road. Ray struggles to get him back into the car as a truck approaches. Ray then digs a grave in a freshly plowed field. As he throws dirt onto Marty's body, Marty pulls the gun out and tries three times to shoot Ray, but the gun is empty. 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.
The detective burns the doctored photos, but realizes one is missing. It is then that he also realizes that 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." While arguing they are interrupted by a telephone call from the detective, who says nothing. Abby tells Ray that it was Marty again. A confused Ray leaves; both Abby and Ray think that the other has done something to harm Marty.
Meanwhile, the other bartender, Meurice, listens to several old phone messages from Marty, accusing him or Ray of stealing money from the safe. - this is, in fact Marty's way of covering up the money he paid to the detective for the murders. Meurice storms to Ray's house and accuses him of stealing the money. Ray is silent, hiding the blood in the back seat of his car.
The detective goes to the bar to get the photo and the lighter. As he takes a hammer to the safe he is interrupted by Abby, who wants to find out why Ray has been acting so strangely. He hides while Abby finds the bar ransacked and bloodstained.
Abby has a dream about Marty. She first thinks it's Ray in the dream until she realizes it's Marty warning her, before he vomits blood, "He'll kill you too." After Abby wakes up she finds Ray at his house, packing to leave. She tells him she thinks he killed Marty because he refused to pay him, and then broke into the safe and fought with him. Ray explains that he found her gun at the bar and that he buried Marty alive. She leaves with the misunderstanding still not resolved. She goes to Meurice and tells him that she thinks that Marty is dead, but Meurice tries to assure her that Marty is still alive.
Ray returns once more to the bar and finds the faked photo, and leaves for Abby's apartment realizing she might be in danger. While there he notices headlights in his rear view mirror. When Abby arrives home she turns on a light and finds Ray looking out the large window. He orders her to turn off the light because he thinks someone is watching. She thinks Ray is threatening her and turns the light back on. The detective is on a nearby rooftop with a rifle, and shoots Ray dead through the window. Barely escaping a second shot, then hearing approaching footsteps, Abby knocks out the light bulb with her shoe. She hides in the bathroom as the detective arrives. He then enters the bathroom to kill her, muttering, "I don't know what you two thought you were going to pull off," but he finds the bathroom empty and the window open. Reaching out the window, he opens it to the next room, but Abby slams the sash down on his wrist and drives a knife through his gloved hand into the sill. He then shoots holes through the wall, and punches through it and removes the knife, while Abby retreats and waits outside the bathroom, holding the gun Ray returned to her.
As the detective is about to emerge, she fires through the door, hitting him. "I'm not afraid of you Marty," Abby says. The detective, lying on the bathroom floor, mortally wounded, bursts into cackling laughter, saying, "Well, ma'am, if I see him, I'll sure give him the message."John Getz as Ray
Frances McDormand as Abby
Dan Hedaya as Julian Marty
M. Emmet Walsh as Private detective
Samm-Art Williams as Meurice
Deborah Neumann as Debra
Rev. William Preston Robertson as radio evangelist (voice only)
Cast notesBlood Simple was Frances McDormand's screen debut.
Holly Hunter has an uncredited voice-only role as Helene Trend, who is heard on Meurice's telephone answering machine.
The Coen brothers took the trailer they made – which showed "a man dragging a shovel alongside a car stopped in the middle of the road, back towards another man he was going to kill" and "a shot of backlit gun holes in a wall" – and a projector and went around to people's homes and work places to show it. Daniel Bacaner was one of the first people to invest money in the project. He also became its executive producer and introduced the Coens to other potential backers. The entire process of raising the necessary $1.5 million took a year.
The film was shot in several locations in the towns of Austin and Hutto, Texas over a period of eight weeks in the fall of 1982. The film spent a year in post-production and was completed by 1983.
While the film was only a modest box office success, it was a huge critical success. It currently holds a 94% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the 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." The movie made about $3 million. Its first big public viewing was the USA Film Festival in Dallas, followed by the Sundance Film Festival, where it received the Grand Jury Prize. The brothers took the film to the Toronto Film Festival, Cannes, and the New York Film Festival. They were very proud of their film, particularly in light of having raised the funds using their self-made trailer.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:2001: AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – #98
The film was released on VHS tape in 1995 with a 99-minute running time.
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.
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.
In June 2016 the Criterion Collection announced they would be releasing Blu-ray and DVD special editions of the film in September with a new 4K digital transfer supervised and approved by Barry Sonnenfeld and the Coens, along with various new special features.
Carter Burwell wrote the Blood Simple score, the first of his collaborations with the Coen brothers. Blood Simple was also the first feature film score for Burwell; and after his work on this film, he became a much-in-demand composer in Hollywood. By 2016 he had scored 16 of the Coen brothers' films.
The score for Blood Simple 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 a 17-track album that also features selections from the soundtrack of the Coens' next film, Raising Arizona (1987).
Blood Simple selections on the 1987 album:
- "Crash and Burn" (2:40)
- "Blood Simple" (3:33)
- "Chain Gang" (4:47)
- "The March" (3:34)
- "Monkey Chant" (1:04)
- "The Shooting" (2:52)
- "Blood Simpler" (1:22)
Other songs from the film that are not on the album:"It's the Same Old Song", written by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland, performed by The Four Tops
"Louie Louie", written by Richard Berry, performed by Toots & the Maytals
"The Lady in Red", written by M. Dixon and A. Wrubel, performed by Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra
"He'll Have to Go", written by Joe Allison and Audrey Allison, arranged by Jim Roberge, performed by Joan Black
"El Sueno", written by Camilo Namen, performed by Johnny Ventura y su Combo
"Anahi" performed by Maria Luisa Buchino and her Llameros
"Sweet Dreams", written by Don Gibson, performed by Patsy Cline
In December 2009, Zhang Yimou released a Chinese remake of the film. 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.