Blood Simple appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. An erratic image, the presentation was fine most of the time.
Print flaws created periodic distractions. Throughout the film, I saw more than occasional instances of specks; these weren’t dominant, but they weren’t rare, either. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, though, and I noticed no edge haloes.
Sharpness tended to vary. Some shots offered very nice clarity, and those were more frequent than not. However, more than a few soft elements appeared. Most of these seemed to stem from the source photography; Simple wasn’t exactly a big-budget affair, so inconsistencies became more expected. The majority of the flick offered pretty good definition.
Colors were adequate. The movie went with a fairly deep palette that favored dense tones, and these looked positive; they displayed nice clarity and never became too heavy. Blacks were a bit inky but usually fine, and shadows seemed smooth.
As I watched Simple, I questioned how much digital noise reduction came along for the ride. Grain varied and often seemed natural for what I’d anticipate from a low-budget movie shot in 1983. However, more than a few shots seemed surprisingly free from grain when I examined the settings. I suspected some noise reduction in these, but I didn’t notice the telltale signs of smearing or waxiness that usually come with too much DNR.
Perhaps others will come to a more obvious determination of its use; as for me, I found myself suspicious but without clear indications. In the end, the transfer was up and down but satisfying enough for a “C+”.
I believe Blood Simple had a monaural soundtrack back in 1984, but it got an upgrade for the 1999 Director’s Cut. That’s what we hear represented via the Blu-ray’s DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio. Even with the changes that occurred in technology and standards over the intervening 15 years, the mix for Simple remained… well, pretty simple. Music offered stereo imaging that seemed fine, and effects broadened to the sides in a moderate manner. These delivered basic panning and involvement but nothing especially involving or active.
Audio quality varied but was usually fine. Speech tended to be the most erratic, largely due to some weak dubbing on occasion. Lines were always intelligible and usually appeared reasonably natural, but they could come across as stiff and forced at times. Music seemed fairly rich and full, and effects were pretty solid. I suspect that was the part of the movie that enjoyed most of the re—recording benefits, especially related to the loud, booming gunshots. All of this came across as a fairly satisfying mix given the movie’s age.
Two extras appear here: the movie’s trailer and an audio commentary from “Kenneth Loring” of “Forever Young Film Restoration”. Why the quotes? Because there’s no such thing as “Forever Young”, “Kenneth Loring” is a pseudonym, and the whole thing’s a gag. The flick opens with a 95-second intro from the fake company’s “Mortimer Young” as well; he explains how digital technology and other processes have radically improved Simple along with other false facts.
The commentary from “Loring” follows the same path. He delivers all sorts of movie-related analysis and notes. We hear about various cinematic techniques plus behind the scenes details of abandoned scenes and characters. All of which is wholly false, of course. Almost nothing you hear in the commentary is true, as “Loring” provides one ridiculous “fact” after another.
Some of this seems moderately entertaining, but I think the comedic content becomes too thin and forced to sustain our interest over a 95-minute movie. Actually, I must admit that some of the commentary’s most amusing bits came during the film’s second half, so I can’t claim that it peters out as it goes.
However, by the time the track got to its more clever moments, I was simply ready for it to end. It’s a one-joke premise that probably works best ala the quick intro from “Mortimer Young”; when the gag gets stretched to feature-length, it sags too often to keep us amused.
Kind of like Blood Simple itself. On some levels, the movie represents a strong first statement from the Coen brothers. On others, however, it suffers from a lack of cinematic development and falters. The Blu-ray comes with decent picture and audio as well as the occasionally amusing commentary. I’m sure fans will be happy with this release, though I suspect they’d be even more delighted if the Coens finally let the original theatrical cut of Simple out of the warehouse. As for me, I think it’s interesting to see the Coens’ first feature but don’t feel all that excited about the end result.