Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Blood Simple (1984) The Bad Detective

The world is full o' complainers. An' the fact is, nothin' comes with a guarantee. Now I don't care if you're the Pope of Rome, President of the United States or Man of the Year; somethin' can all go wrong. Now go on ahead, y'know, complain, tell your problems to your neighbor, ask for help, 'n watch him fly. Now, in Russia, they got it mapped out so that everyone pulls for everyone else... that's the theory, anyway. But what I know about is Texas, an' down here... you're on your own.

All I can say is Wow! What a debut film of the Coen Brother's. This film has got STYLE. Directed by Joel Coen, (& Ethan Coen (uncredited)) (Miller's Crossing (1990), Barton Fink (1991), Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), No Country for Old Men (2007)), and written by both Joel Coen & Ethan Coen. The films cinematography was by Barry Sonnenfeld (Raising Arizona (1987), Miller's Crossing (1990)) and the music was by Carter Burwell (Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998),No Country for Old Men (2007), Mildred Pierce (TV Mini-Series)).

The film stars John Getz (The Fly (1986)) as Ray, Frances McDormand (Fargo (1996), Lone Star (1996), The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)) as femme fatale Abby Marty, Dan Hedaya (True Confessions (1981), Tightrope (1984), Mulholland Dr. (1999)) as Julian Marty, M. Emmet Walsh (Midnight Cowboy (1969), Serpico (1973), Straight Time (1978), Blade Runner (1982), Narrow Margin (1990)) as private investigator Loren Visser, Samm-Art Williams (Dressed to Kill (1980), A Rage in Harlem (1991)) as Meurice, and Deborah Neumann as Debra.

Ray (John Getz)

Abby (Francis McDormand)

Julian (Dan Hedaya)

Visser (M. Emmet Walsh)
P.I.'s are arguably, along with the femme fatale, probably the two top icons of Noir, but in the totality of the Noir/Neo Noir canon there are surprisingly, contrary to popular perception, not very many films that actually do feature your classic hardboiled private detective. Oh don't get me wrong there is sleuthing going on in quite a bit of Film Noir, but it's done by a plethora of characters, newspaper reporters, the falsely accused, the amnesiacs, the framed, cabbies, tabloid photographers, secretaries, taxi dancers, average joe's, even kids.  Out of those films that do actually have P.I.'s, I can only think of four with private detectives that have gone bad, Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) in, Out Of the Past, J.B. MacDonald (Raymond Burr) in Pitfall, Kerric (Raymond Burr) in Abandoned, and hayseed shitkicker Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) in this film Blood Simple, which takes "The Bad Detective" to a whole new level.


Blood Simple starts off with sleazy bedroom dick Visser's voice over about there being no guarantees in life. Visser was hired by Julian Marty who owns Neon Boots a honkey-tonk/strip bar. Marty wants Visser, to keep tabs on his "funny: acting wife, Abby. Julian suspects some hanky panky is going on between Abby and one of his barkeepers, either "Motown" Meurice or "Cowboy" Ray.

On a rainy night Ray offers to drive Abby to Houston on his day off. Abby spills the beans to Ray about her screwed up marriage. Ray replies that he's always liked her.

Abby: He gave me a little pearl-handled .38 for our first anniversary.
Ray: Uh-huh.
Abby: Figured I'd better leave before I used it on him. I don't know how you can stand him.
Ray: Well, I'm only an employee, I ain't married to him.

One thing leads to another and Abby ends up repeatedly batter-dipping Ray's corn dog in a variety of positions in a cheap roadside hot sheet motel. Visser who has been tailing them all along in his VW bug is able to indulge in one of his perverted kinks, peeping and photographing their dirty deeds. Visser takes particular pleasure rubbing Julian]s nose in his armature porn shots of Ray and Abby.

Private Detective Visser: [about a photo of Ray and Abby] I know a place you can get that framed.
Marty: What did you take these for?
Private Detective Visser: What do you mean? Just doin' my job.
Marty: You called me, I knew they were there, so what do I need these for?
Private Detective Visser: Well, I don't know... Call it a fringe benefit.
Marty: How long did you watch her?
Private Detective Visser: Most of the night... They'd just rest a few minutes and then get started again. Quite something.

Julian stews over the revelations, confronts Ray and Abby to little effect, then decides to make Visser an offer.

Marty: I got a job for you.
Private Detective Visser: Uh, well, if the pay's right, and it's legal, I'll do it.
Marty: It's not strictly legal.
Private Detective Visser: [Thinks for a second] Well, if the pay's right, I'll do it.

Julian offers Visser 10 Gs to kill Ray and Abby and get rid of the bodies.

Of course this being a Neo Noir nothing goes down quite as expected, and when it does go down, it's with great style. The film is full of twists, double crosses and a healthy helping of bizarre black humor.


Dan Hedaya and M. Emmet Walsh are both in top form as the films unforgettable two sleazeballs around which this picaresque universe revolves. The soundtrack and score compliment the action. Review is of 2000 re-release.  9/10

No comments:

Post a Comment