Blood Simple | Critical Review by Harry M. Geduld

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Blood Simple.
This section contains 504 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Harry M. Geduld

Critical Review by Harry M. Geduld

SOURCE: A review of Blood Simple, in The Humanist, Vol. 45, No. 4, July/August, 1985, p. 43.

In the following review, Geduld criticizes Blood Simple as lacking in creativity and unable to provide engaging characters.

This nasty little thriller (stylistically distinguished only by some clever uses of extreme closeups) provoked me into recalling the masterpieces of the genre, in particular Billy Wilder's 1944 adaptation of James M. Cain's Double Indemnity. Notwithstanding the work of Hitchcock, Wilder's film remains for me the outstanding movie example of what E. F. Bleiler has called "the inverted detective story," that narrative form in which the focus is on the criminal and on the motives and methods of his or her crime rather than on the detective. The most notable literary examples I know are Ira Levin's A Kiss Before Dying and C. S. Forester's Payment Deferred, both of which received less than satisfactory film treatment.

Blood Simple consists of unmistakable variations on the plot of Double Indemnity. Taken together, the two films explore most of the possible changes on the "eternal triangle" of husband, wife, and lover. In Double Indemnity, it is the ruthless wife (Barbara Stanwyck) and her lover (Fred MacMurray) who plot the murder of the husband; in Blood Simple, the plotter is the husband, but a fourth character, a relentless investigator (a variation on Edward G. Robinson's claims manager in Double Indemnity), throws a monkey wrench into the machinery. Borrowings from other notable movie thrillers show up throughout. Thus, this fourth character is clearly modeled on Hank Quinlan, the corrupt cop in Touch of Evil (1958), and he carelessly drops his cigarette lighter at the scene of the crime—a gratuitous "quote" from Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951).

Without revealing more of the plot, suffice it to say that most of Blood Simple's ingenuities are predictable and that, where Double Indemnity provided suspense, Blood Simple gives us merely shock and gore. The mounting tension and anxiety created in Double Indemnity depended upon our identifying with the two killers. To ensure this, Wilder first established them as fascinating characters who are suddenly, irresistibly caught up in a passionate affair. When they turned from adultery to murder, our inextricable involvement with them made us want desperately to see them succeed—so that when, for example, their getaway car failed to start, their panic inevitably became ours, By contrast, a parallel situation in Blood Simple evoked nothing from me but scorn for the stupidity of a murderer who would drive into the middle of a ploughed field to bury his victim, leaving half a mile of tire tracks for the police to trace. Apart from that, this character—like everyone else in Blood Simple—appears too "crummy" (to use a favorite word of my eight-year-old) to arouse empathy. It's impossible to get worked up over a couple of lackluster lovers, a jealous husband with a permanent scowl on his face, and a tired imitation of Orson Welles. Blood Simple has nothing to offer that hasn't been done superlatively well before.

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This section contains 504 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Harry M. Geduld
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