AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Blood Simple
Director: Joel Coen (Dir)
Release Date:   18 Jan 1985
Premiere Information:   New York Film Festival screening: 12 Oct 1984; New York opening: 18 Jan 1985; Los Angeles opening: 1 Mar 1985
Duration (in mins):   96
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   John Getz (Ray)  
    Frances McDormand (Abby)  
    Dan Hedaya (Julian Marty)  
    M. Emmet Walsh (Private detective)  
    Samm-Art Williams (Meurice)  
    Deborah Neumann (Debra)  
    Raquel Gavia (Landlady)  
    Van Brooks (Man from Lubbock)  
    Señor Marco (Mr. Garcia)  
    William Creamer (Old cracker)  
    Loren Bivens (Strip bar exhorter)  
    Bob McAdams (Strip bar senator)  
    Shannon Sedwick (Stripper)  
    Nancy Finger (Girl on overlook)  
    Rev. William Preston Robertson (Radio evangelist)  

Summary: Abby, the wife of bar owner, Julian Marty, begins an affair with Ray, one of Marty's bartenders. Driving through a rainstorm at night, unaware of a Volkswagen Bug following close behind them, Ray gives Abby a ride to Houston, Texas, as she attempts to separate from Marty. Despite their uncertainty, the expedition is curtailed when they consummate the relationship at a motel. In the morning, a man calls the room and, after hanging up, Ray tells Abby that it was her husband. Already suspicious, Marty hired private detective, Loren Visser, to investigate, and Visser confirms Marty’s fears with photographs of Ray and Abby at the motel. When Marty angrily demands to know why he took the pictures even though he had already called to let him know that they were together, Visser wields a silver lighter engraved with his name and claims that voyeurism is one of the perks of the job. Marty threateningly tells Visser that in Greece it is customary to cut off the head of a messenger who brings bad news, but Visser laughs and leaves with his payment. The next evening, Ray takes Abby back to her house, where she secretly collects the pearl-handled revolver Marty gave her as a gift, and he offers to let her stay at his place. He then goes to Marty’s bar to quit and claim unpaid wages. Marty refuses to pay and warns Ray that Abby will cheat on him as well. Marty’s comment elicits mistrust, and although a quarrel ensues between Ray and Abby when Ray returns home, they spend the night together. In the morning, Marty hides in Ray’s living room and attacks Abby, who unsuccessfully reaches for the revolver in her purse. The fight continues outside, where Abby kicks Marty in the groin, and when Ray appears at the door with Abby’s gun, Marty retreats. Later, Marty meets Visser, who has parked his Volkswagen Bug at a popular teen hangout, and offers him $10,000 to kill Ray and Abby. Reluctant at first, Visser accepts and tells Marty to arrange a fishing trip as an alibi. That night, Visser breaks into Ray's house, steals Abby's gun and then returns outside to stalk the couple through the large, exposed window beside Ray’s bed. Marty returns from his trip and meets Visser at the bar office. Visser presents him with a photograph displaying Ray and Abby in bed, shot and killed. When Marty opens the safe to withdraw Visser’s fee, he hides the photograph inside. After Visser collects his money, he shoots Marty with Abby's gun, but accidently leaves his lighter under a dead fish on Marty's desk. Later that night, Ray returns to the bar, seeking the wages he is owed. Not finding anything in the cash register, he walks into the office, stumbles over Abby’s revolver, which misfires, and finds Marty in his chair, covered with blood. Assuming Abby shot Marty, Ray attempts to clean up the office with his windbreaker, then slips her gun into Marty’s pocket and drags the body to his car. After driving away, Ray pulls over and runs from the car, but turns back to find that Marty is no longer in the backseat. As Marty slowly crawls away, Ray considers running him over with the car and beating him with a shovel, but cannot muster the will. He drags Marty back into the car and drives to a freshly plowed field. After digging a hole, Ray buries Marty alive. Before he is completely covered, however, Marty weakly draws Abby’s revolver from his pocket. He points it at Ray and squeezes the trigger, but there are no remaining bullets. Now panicked, Ray frantically finishes filling the grave with dirt. In the morning, Ray calls Abby from a payphone and tells her that he loves her, then shows up at her new apartment with blood on his shirt. Meanwhile, in a darkroom, Visser sets fire to the photographs he doctored to show the murder of Abby and Ray, but realizes the one Marty returned to him has been replaced with a sign from the bar reminding employees to wash their hands before returning to work. He attempts to light a cigarette and discovers his lighter is missing, then taps his fingers on his phone. Back at Abby’s apartment, Ray vaguely describes the events from the previous evening and how he cleaned up her mess, but Abby does not understand what he is talking about. They are interrupted by a phone call, but when Abby picks up, she hears nothing on the other end and assumes that it is Marty. Still unconvinced that Abby did not attempt to kill Marty, Ray leaves, but sets Abby’s gun down by the door on his way out, telling her that she had left it behind. That evening, in an attempt to make sense of Ray's behavior, Abby goes to the bar. When she arrives, Visser is in the office, trying to break open the safe with a hammer to reclaim the incriminating photograph. Visser hides and watches as Abby uncovers broken glass and blood on the floor, a hammer and chip marks on the safe, and fish rotting on Marty’s desk. Suddenly back at her apartment, Abby wakes in the night and washes her face. Hearing footsteps through the walls, Abby leaves the bathroom to find Marty sitting on her bed. He says that he loves her and that she left her weapon behind, tossing a threatening metal object from his pocket that turns about to be a compact. With the warning "he'll kill you too," Marty falls on the ground, vomiting blood. Abby wakes from the apparent nightmare and sits up in bed. She goes to Ray's apartment and accuses him of murdering Marty over the money he is owed, but Ray, who is packing to leave, explains that he found her gun at the bar and buried Marty alive. A newspaper loudly strikes the screen door beside them, and Abby leaves in haste. Ray returns to the bar and finds Visser’s doctored photograph. Upon leaving, he notices a Volkswagen Bug on the empty street. That night, Abby returns to her apartment to discover Ray waiting in the dark, looking out the window. As she switches on the lights, he urges her to turn them off. She does, but when he explains that he thinks someone is watching, she turns the lights back on in fear that he plans to hurt her. Visser, watching from the rooftop of a building across the street with a sniper rifle, uses the light to aim and fires a shot through the window. Ray falls down dead and Visser targets Abby, who dives to the floor and narrowly avoids the bullet meant for her. Barely out of Visser's view, she throws a shoe and shatters the light bulb, plunging the room into darkness. Visser soon arrives at the apartment and Abby hides in the bathroom. He searches Ray in an attempt to retrieve his lighter but does not find it, then moves on to the bathroom to kill Abby. When he does not see her there, he reaches out the bathroom window toward the building’s adjacent window. As he slides it open, Abby grabs him, slams the window frame down on his wrist and stabs his hand with a knife. The blade goes deep into the windowsill, immobilizing Visser. Desperate, he shoots holes into the wall, and, when his gun is empty, he breaks through the wall with his fist. Abby returns next door to her apartment and finds her gun where Ray left it while Visser removes the knife from his hand. Aiming her gun from outside the partially closed bathroom door, Abby sees Visser’s shadow, fires a shot and hits him. As he falls to the ground and hears Abby declare, "I'm not afraid of you, Marty," Visser bursts into laughter. With his last breath, Visser jokes that if he sees Marty, he’ll “give him the message” and looks up at the underside of the bathroom sink. Water collects on the pipes and a single drop falls on him.

Production Company: River Road Productions  
Production Text: Ted and Jim Pedas and Ben Barenholtz present A River Road Production
Distribution Company: Circle Releasing  
Director: Joel Coen (Dir)
  Deborah Reinisch (1st asst dir)
  Steve Love (2d asst dir)
  Shannon Wood (3d asst dir)
Producer: Ethan Coen (Prod)
  Daniel F. Bacaner (Exec prod)
  Mark Silverman (Assoc prod)
Writer: Joel Coen (Wrt)
  Ethan Coen (Wrt)
Photography: Barry Sonnenfeld (Dir of photog)
  David Frederick (Focus puller)
  Don Kirk (Clapper/Loader)
  Joey Forsyte (Gaffer)
  Julie Gant (2d elec)
  Don Wiegmann (Elec)
  John Shaw (Elec)
  Tom Prophet Jr. (Key grip)
  Angelo Suasnovar (3d grip)
  Richard Creasy (Best boy)
  David Wander (Photo retoucher)
  Blaine Pennington (Spec stills)
Art Direction: Jane Musky (Prod des)
  Steve Roll (Asst to prod des)
Film Editor: Roderick Jaynes (Ed)
  Don Wiegmann (Ed)
  Peggy Connolly (Loc ed)
  Edna Ruth Paul (Ed consultant)
  Victor Concepcion (Negative cutter)
  Texas Motion Picture Service (Loc ed services provided by)
Set Decoration: Shirley Belwood (Prop master)
  Marcos E. González (Prop asst)
  Nancy Griffith (Set dresser)
  Bob Sturtevant (Art dept asst)
  Jeff Adams (Art dept asst)
  Michael Peal (Art dept asst)
  Kathy Baker (Art dept asst)
  Dave Pearce (Art dept asst)
  Beth Perry (Spec graphics)
Costumes: Sara Medina-Pape (Ward des)
  Chelle Coleman (Ward asst)
Music: Carter Burwell (Mus)
  Murri Barber (Mus coord and prod)
  Todd Kasow (Mus ed)
Sound: Lee Orloff (Sd mixer)
  Peter F. Kurland (Boom)
  Skip Lievsay (Sd ed)
  Michael R. Miller (Sd ed)
  Fred Szymanski (Spec sd eff)
  Jun Mizumachi (Spec sd eff)
  Mel Zelniker (Re-rec mixer)
  Skip Lievsay (Mix updated by)
  Blake Leyh (New sd eff)
  Lew Goldstein (New sd eff)
  Bradford L. Hohle (Dolby consultant)
  Sound One Corporation (Post prod services)
Special Effects: Loren Bivens (Spec eff coord)
  Paul R. Smith (Spec eff make-up and prosthetics)
  Michael K. O'Sullivan (Spec eff mechanical)
  Dan Perri (Title des)
  The Optical House, N. Y. (Opt by)
Make Up: Jean Ann Black (Make-up)
Production Misc: Julie Hughes (Casting)
  Barry Moss (Casting)
  Peter Golden (Casting assoc)
  Phil DiMaggio (Casting assoc)
  Edith M. Clark (Loc mgr and Austin casting)
  Don Hartack (Loc coord)
  H. Harris Willcockson (Loc auditor)
  Alma Kuttruff (Prod office coord)
  Andreas Laven (Scr supv)
  Marty Mahoney (Dog trainer)
  Lizanne Brazell (Dial coach)
  Van Brooks (Prod asst)
  Ingrid Weigand (Prod asst)
  David McGill (Prod asst)
  Melanie Hecht (Prod asst)
  Webster Lewin (Prod asst)
  Darrell Kreitz (Prod asst)
  Adam Smith (Prod asst)
  John Woodward (Prod asst)
  Richard Woolsey (Prod asst)
  Shawn Malone (Prod asst)
  Tom Martin (Prod asst)
  David Diliberto (Restoration consultant)
  The Spera Corporation (Post prod services)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "It's the Same Old Song," by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland, performed by The Four Tops, used by permission of Motown Record Corporation and Jobete Music Co., Inc.; "Louie Louie," by Richard Berry, performed by Toots and the Maytals, courtesy of Island Records; "The Lady in Red," by M. Dixon and A. Wrubel, performed by Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra, courtesy of RCA Records; "Rogaciano," courtesy of Monitor Records; "He'll Have to Go," by Joe Allison and Audrey Allison, arranged by Jim Roberge, performed by Joan Black, produced by Murri Barber; "El Sueno," by Camilo Namen, performed by Johnny Ventura y su Combo, courtesy of Rico Records; "Anahi," performed by Maria Luisa Buchino and her Llameros, courtesy of Monitor Records; "Sweet Dreams," by Don Gibson, published by Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., performed by Patsy Cline, courtesy of MCA Records under license from Universal Music Special Markets.
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
River Road Productions 3/2/1986 dd/mm/yyyy PA278689

Physical Properties: Sd: Dolby in selected theatres
  col: DuArt

Genre: Film noir
Subjects (Major): Bars
  Hired killers
Subjects (Minor): Austin (TX)
  Cigarette lighters
  Gunshot wounds
  Husband murder
  Live burial
  Volkswagen automobiles

Note: The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Greg Lewis, a student at Emerson College, with Eric Schaefer as academic advisor.
Actress Frances McDormand made her motion picture debut in Blood Simple

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   23 May 1984.   
Daily Variety   5 Jul 1984.   
Hollywood Reporter   28 Feb 1984.   
Hollywood Reporter   15 Oct 1984   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Feb 1985.   
Los Angeles Times   28 Feb 1985   p. 1, 11.
New York Times   12 Oct 1984   p. 12.
New York Times   18 Jan 1985   p. 6.
Variety   22 Sep 1982.   
Variety   23 May 1984   p. 19, 22.
Variety   3 Oct 1984.   
Variety   9 Jan 1985.   

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.