Blood Simple
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2001
Fortunately for everyone a decision was made to re-release Blood Simple in theaters. 16 years ago when it was in first run I was barely aware of it. There were so many good reviews of the film I decided to go catch it. Blood Simple was the best film I saw in 2000. Until now there has been no DVD available in the U.S. A very grainy poor quality pan and scan copy is being sold in the UK. It just isn't an option to purchase a pan and scan with this movie. The Coen brothers gorgeous cinematography makes full use of the entire frame. It is a noir style film so much of the imagery is in darkened bars and at night. But the color and light in the movie is really beautiful. This film has deserved a good treatment and now with this Director's cut it is finally getting one. One of the odd things about this Director's cut is it is the same length as the original version. Footage has been taken out and not added. The missing time is made up with an introduction by the Coen Brothers explaining that the film has been re-edited to take advantage of new technological advances not available when the film was first shot. This is sort of a joke similar to the opening of Fargo where a title card states, "Based upon a true story". Fargo is not based on a true story. They just thought it would be a better story if people thought it was true when they watched it. Ha Ha. Blood Simple's re-edit was a simple edit to tighten up the pace which was sometimes a little slow in the original version.
Made for only two million dollars Blood Simple is a stunning achievement, all the more so because it was the Coen's first film. Stylish photography plays with not just light and shadow as in most noir, but color as well. But what drives this film is suspense mistrust and double dealing. I smile when I occasionally spot a criticism of this film is "its almost too clever" and "too perfect". Blood Simple is fantastic at its clever choreography of events and placement of objects in relation to the actors that really adds to the tension and excitement. If thats too clever then spare me the dumbed down version. I love it. The acting is quite good. Its most interesting to see Frances McDormand, looking much younger and quite pretty, was obviously talented even back then. Blood Simple is often very disturbing. Especially good is a creepy scene in a moonlit field involving two men a burlap sack and a shovel. The violence in this scene as in much of Blood Simple is largely psychological. It was interesting to discover from an Amazon customer from Germany that they have a high quality widescreen DVD available in his country. But while they can buy it and watch it, German law forbids export of films which contained violence. He offered to bring a copy in his suitcase as he happened to be visiting my city. We couldn't work it out logistically but fortunately for the rest of you, you soon won't have to go to such great lengths to get a copy.
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254 of 298 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2003
Blood Simple is one of the all-time great independent films. As a devotee of this film it goes without saying that I know nearly every line of dialogue and every cut. Well... if you too are a fan , my advice to you is: PASS ON THIS EDITION! I was absolutely shocked to see that this film had been re-edited! And NOT for the better. In fact, this was not a new edit in the traditional sense (scene shifting; scene re-edits etc.). All they did with this version was to simply lop off lines from the existing original final cut! That's right. They just shortened scenes, most often taking the form of the scene ins and outs (first and last lines in each scene). For instance, M.Emmet Walsh's last line to Marty in the VW when he contracts Walsh. Or how about the humorous placing of Getz's cigarette in the stuffed wild boars mouth at Marty's house? Or the exchange between Samm-Art Williams and the redneck at the juke box. Those lines are now gone completely. And remember that version of The Monkee's "I'm A Beliver" which was used in that scene? Its been dumped for a Four Tops tune. This is just a few in a long list of disturbing changes. As a film editor, I asked myself, what imporovements were made with these new cuts? The answer is a resounding, NONE!
My point is this. If you buy this DVD expecting the same old Blood Simple in a new, crisp DVD edition, you will be sorely disappointed. You will be constantly distracted by the jarring edits rather than being able to enjoy the film... Again, worthless.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2000
With a story that makes "Double Indemnity" look like the quickest way to get from point A to point B, a couple of my very favorite filmmakers turned the film noir conventions 360 degrees. Yes, that means it ended up back where it started, but much better as a result of the the trip. A good film noir needs a couple key elements, not the least of which are several layers of double crosses and misunderstandings. It also needs the one key clue that could clear or incriminate a murderer. To those ends, Joel and Ethan Coen created yet another little world in which several clues are left unused or misunderstood, and the double crosses are the bread and butter of one very crafty, though seedy, private eye. John Getz, Frances McDormand, M. Emmet Walsh, and Dan Hedaya are all 102% perfect in their roles. Barry Sonnenfeld delights with his cinematography, and the Coens have fun messing with the viewer. They set out to make a darkly funny, very twisted noir and they succeeded. The real stars are the Coens, much like with any of their movies (exceptions made for John Turturro or John Goodman in any of their roles, of course). Joel and Ethan are master craftsmen of cinema usually overlooked by mainstream audiences. Their debut, "Blood Simple," not only showcased the promise of their talent, but was a tour de force on its own terms. Along with "L.A. Confidential," "Blade Runner," and "Hard Eight," "Blood Simple" proves that film noir is not dead. Because it is, as this film proves, very hard to kill something, and have it stay dead....
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2001
As a big fan of the film since it was released in 1985, I was looking forward to seeing Blood Simple transferred to DVD. A cleaned-up widescreen transfer, and maybe a little cleaner audio, were all good things that I wanted to see happen; and with the Director's Cut, it did happen. However, I think the edits that were made in this version of the film may displease fans of the original -- I know they displease this fan.
I won't go into a laundry-list of the cuts. They are, for the most part, the removal or trimming of some funny bits and gags that don't really contribute to telling the story; but they do, in my opinion, contribute to the quirky charm of the film without consuming a great deal of time on screen. Also trimmed are some uncomfortable silences that develop between people in certain scenes; making them not so uncomfortable, I guess, but I don't see this as an improvement.
Most disconcerting to me are some of the music changes. One that particularly disappointed me is when Ray first confronts Marty on the back steps of the bar. In the original version, a slow-tempo instrumental country-western tune is playing inside the bar, and after transitioning to the outside, the same song is heard muffled in the background with the bass still booming. As anyone who has ever stood outside a nightclub can tell you, this is exactly what you hear -- the lower frequencies propagate better than the higher frequencies. The editors have seen fit to change this to a vocal piece of music that is reduced in volume as the view changes to the outside, but without the realistic frequency balance. I don't understand why this change was made. Perhaps some didn't like that the music here wasn't really so much music as it was background sound, or perhaps it was thought to interfere with hearing the conversation; but I think it was a wonderful element in the atmosphere of the scene that I surely miss.
Regarding the new intro with the pompously lecturing gentleman, suffice it to say that it can be fast-forwarded through.
This Director's Cut version delivers basically the same psychological and visceral thrills as the original version, with improved video and audio; but long-time fans, such as myself, may find the changes have done some minor cosmetic harm, rather than good.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2002
With this first work of cinema, the unknown Coen brothers, who just finished "The Evil Dead" with young Sam Raimi, manage to get the financing for producing and directing their first script. It's not a horror film... but it's not far from it! Actually we can't tell what it really is. Horror? Passion story? Detective? Black comedy? Anyway the two brothers take the codes of classical passion crime stories dealing with the usual triangle of nut characters (husband, wife and lover) and add a fourth, definitely rotten one. It's a private eye, wonderfully played by underrated M. Emmet Walsh ("Blade Runner"), who gives the performance of his career, a brilliant, amazing one, funny and chilling in the same time. WHO LOOKS STUPID NOW?
The story is awfully simple: Marty, a Texas bar owner and betrayed husband (Dan "Usual Suspects" Hedaya) hires the private eye to kill his unfaithful wife Abby (Frances McDormand) and her lover Ray (John "The Fly" Getz) who's also Marty's employee. The eye pretends to do the job and shows Marty some fake photographs showing the lovers shot dead in bed. He takes the money, then he shoots his hirer right away and disappears. Ray, who doesn't know about the detective's existence, discovers Marty's almost dead body. For him, no doubt: it's Abby who did this work... He takes him away in order to bury him far away from the bar, and finds out that Marty isn't dead yet. He's forced to bury him alive, offering us the most nightmarish scene of the film....
The movie is a real visual and sound shock. The script is incredibly original and brings some freshness in usual cinema stuff dealing with unfaithful characters ready to kill each other in order to avoid all the difficulties linked to divorce. The ambiance and atmosphere is the ones of a real bad dream, a nightmare, and the fact that the story takes place in an early, gray place in Texas (don't miss the hilarious prologue), where everything weird can happen very normally, adds to it. And the soundtrack by Carter Burwell is extraordinary, this is what he did first and best for the Coen brothers. It captures everything of the movie and makes the nighmare become really true. Compared to it, James Cain novels look ugly, conventional and definitely old-fashioned. This movie is a must see for all the people who're tired of big foreseeable blockbusters and wish to be surprised when they go to the movies. For me this is the best film from the Coen brothers, a film able to wake up the dead. Magnificent.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2005
Blood Simple, made in the mid-1980's, helped to establish the cheaper indie film, independent of the Hollywood mill system, as a force to be reckoned with. It also launched the careers of the film's makers, Joel and Ethan Coen, as an artistic duo equally to be reckoned with. Finally, the movie itself, a film noir entry with post 1950's elements of sardonic humor, helped to prove that that genre - one of America's prime contributions to theatrical film making - was still alive, if only occasionally ticking.

Pretty much based on its title - `blood simple' meaning the less than intelligent condition those involved in murder frequently display in their attempts to cover up the crime - the film mixes a fairly straight forward narrative with a few curves and symbolic gestures thrown in that were to become the Coens' trademark. One can speculate endlessly, of course, on various artifacts - the whirling fans, the cigarette lighter, the decaying fish, etcetera - provided in the movie, but for the most part they in the end would appear to be little more than examples of - and quite likely a homage to - Hitchcock's celebrated McGuffin - ie: an item around which a plot seems to revolve but which in the end has no real significance to the film's denouement. (Although one exception to this rule is to my mind the hat which forms a central icon in the Coen's later masterpiece, Miller's Crossing, where it obviously signals Gabriel Byrne's authority and integrity as an independent human being.)

Blood Simple presents a basically ensemble cast of 4 actors, all of them at that time pretty much new to movies. Frances McDormand, never looking more attractive (watch the bathroom scene where she lets down her hair and splashes water on her face, wherein she bears a distinct resemblance to an equally young Jane Fonda), embarks here on a successful career in both future Coen releases and other films. She conveys a frank innocence marred by an apparent propensity to sexual affairs (though in fact this is based mainly on hearsay - her only discretion actually shown in the movie occurs with the John Getz bartender character after she is in the act of leaving her husband.) Her own first display of the Blood Simple condition actually occurs beforehand, with her returning to her and her husband's house and then moving in with Getz rather than keeping on in her plan to flee to Houston, where presumably the Getz character, having little or no visible tie to either his job or his home, could easily join her. Getz, always somewhat wooden in his performances, actually uses this shortcoming to good advantage as the phlegmatic bartender, who finds himself forced to commit his own `blood simple' crime in order to cover up for the crime he supposes his new lover has committed. Dan Hedaya gives what is to be his usual sinister but somewhat dry-witted performance as the husband, while as the private eye M. Emmett Walsh shows yet again his superb ability to portray redneck sleaze elevated to almost surreal heights by a high-pitched cackling laugh. The ending, though in some ways a bit too obvious, at least rivets with its macabre violence and moody, again Hitchcockian, setting.

Much has been made of the so-called return from the grave by one of the corpses in the movie. Not revealing the identity of the victim, nevertheless it can be pointed out that this incident is of course presented as an obvious dream sequence and not as reality. But what makes the scene distinctly curious is that the sequence also appears to the McDormand character as a sort of premonition or augury of the movie's final denoument. What no one else seems to have noted is the presence in the scene of window glass spread over the floor of her apartment, glass which did not actually appear until near the end of the film in the finale's first shooting scene.

The DVD version has been presented as a director's cut, though most of the cuts are little more than a tightening of dialogue to increase the pace a bit. Also removed was some banter involving Getz's bartender friend, as well hardly pertinent to the plot. One cut, however, that does bother is Getz's brief cigarette shtick with McDormand's piggy bank: at the end of the movie he is attacked by this very artifact, but the viewer hardly knows what it is since in the new version it appears only in a couple of long shots. The Coens make up for the few removed minutes by tacking onto the front of the movie a comic turn by a man purporting to be the head of the company that `restored' the movie for its DVD presentation, which along with the commentary track provided is nothing but a send-up of both restoration projects (greatly needed and hardly seeming to be a subject for satire) and DVD commentaries (often deserving of a thorough parodying). Yet why in this movie the Coens felt the need for such a presentation is unclear; one could see it attached say to one of their comedic entries such as the estimable Raising Arizona, but here in a film noir, as funny as the un-credited commentator may have been with his droll presentation of the `original' Blood Simple plot, it seems out of place and self-indulgent.

Finally, much has been made of Blood Simple's resemblance to a later Coen Brothers film: Fargo. Both it is true follow the same basic idea of stupidity following a crime. But the to me fatal flaw in Fargo is that this stupidity also occurs systematically during and before any actual crime, by characters who are for the most part congenitally dumb. This unfortunately negates the entire basis of film noir, which was of basically `average' people being caught up in a dark universe not of their making and beyond their control. The other pertinent flaw in Fargo was that the McDormand cop was presented as a positive, intelligent and fully capable character around which all the flawed characters revolved, thus again removing much of the film noir sense of existential inevitability from the plot - we knew from the start that she would in the end win out over these cretins, which is exactly what she did. All in all, with its total immersion in the film noir world of everyman characters facing forces and confusions they are unable to cope with, I find that Blood Simple is a far better film than Fargo, in fact second only to Miller's Crossing thus far in the Coen Brothers' oeuvre.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Released in '85, this was the first by the Coen brothers, and still my favorite of their films. It's really low-budget, and may not have the polish of their later work, but it has a riveting rawness to it and gets better with each viewing (and one should see it several times to fully appreciate the many details).
Set in Texas, it has a terrific plot and dialogue, which revolves around a saloon owner (deliciously played by Dan Hedaya), his unfaithful wife (Frances McDormand), and her lover (John Getz). It has one of the greatest character actors ever, M. Emmet Walsh, in one of his very best parts...as the sleaziest private eye this side of a sewer. It's a fabulous performance.
No matter how many times I see this, I still marvel at its cleverness. The cinematography by Barry Sonnefeld (who also did "Misery") is sensational, and the subtle soundtrack by Carter Burwell is also good. I love the contrast of the gorgeous "Rogaciano" playing in the distance in the final rather grizzly scene ! If you like noir, don't miss this "who's dead now ?" thriller.
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42 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2003
A lot of people have tried to figure out the Coens. In my own Amazon review of Barton Fink, I took a stab at making sense of their intentions. But you know, it took seeing Blood Simple - The Director's Cut, with its intelligent and insightful commentary by "film historian Kenneth Loring", to turn that lightbulb on above my head. For all of the skill the Coens display in marshalling symbols (the hat in Miller's Crossing, the picture in Barton Fink, the UFO in The Man Who Wasn't There; on and on), you would think they have something in mind. Something specific, in a metaphorical sense. Some philosophical point to advance. Some kind of meaning, in other words. But if you take an artist's premiere work to be prototypical in some way, then a viewing of Blood Simple (especially with the commentary track) will tell you all you need to know about Joel and Ethan Coen's artistic sensibilities.
Blood Simple has been called film noir, and it is that, in spades. But it is also a screwball comedy (yes, you read that correctly). In the great Preston Sturges tradition, each character thinks he or she knows what's happening, but only has a small piece of the puzzle. Only we, the audience can see the whole picture. The fun is in watching how one absurdity piles upon the next as the characters act on bad information. That's the very definition of screwball comedy -- only in this case, we get increasingly horrific (if satirical) set-pieces in place of the usual witty repartee and sight-gags.
You see, the Coens intend nothing more than to tell an interesting story. That is exactly what they do, and no more. Trying to label it, find its "meaning", or stuff it into a genre-specific box is pointless. Each film simply is what it is - a ride through an odd world of dark humor and quirky plot machinations that push your emotional buttons even as they ultimately amount to not much more than a diversion. You must be at least this tall to buy a ticket.
Kenneth Loring, a deadpan creation of theirs, would disagree. His commentary on Blood Simple is a satire of those obvious, frequently pompous film commentaries you find on Criterion discs. It's full of ridiculous trivia (animatronic dogs, digital flies, car interiors supposedly filmed in reverse), self-important observations ("There is nothing more fascinating than the human face; it's movie...MAGIC!"), silly anecdotes (the confrontation with Merchant-Ivory writer Ruth Prawer-Jablava had me rolling on the floor), and exactly the kind of "analysis" I tried to do on Barton Fink.
The point, if there is one, is that there's nothing to figure out. Just enjoy Blood Simple - and all the Coen films - for what they are: pure...movie...MAGIC!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Blood Simple completely breaks from the convention of other movies in that no one individual character completely understands the motivations of the other characters, even at the end of the movie. In nearly every other movie that you see, by the end, everyone is happy that they understand the whole story. In Blood Simple, there are misconceptions by each individual.

The inventiveness of the screenplay as one character after another misinterprets the actions of the another make this one of my favorites. I also found myself on more than one occasion thinking about the idiosyncrasies of the characters. Each one is different in their own way. It was actually fun to watch the "good" guys stumble through the actions, while the infamous "bad" guys were perfectionists. My nerves were going crazy when Ray attempts to dispose of a body. He kept doing things wrong, I wanted to jump through the screen and just shake Ray to show him how to do properly finish the crime. I am no criminal, but I could show this guy a thing or two.

Abby makes reference in this film about how "anal" Marty is about his plans, which is interesting to see why she fell for Ray. He is not "anal", in fact, I don't think he thinks through his actions before he does them. I couldn't tell you how many beats my heart missed when watching Ray bury Marty. The sound in this movie was phenomenal. It created such an ambiance to this film. It not only helped build the characters, but also helped build the feeling of this film. This is one of those "keep you on your toes" films. You need to be watching and listening to what is happening not only around these characters, but to them as well.

Speaking of the characters, I loved the character of Visser. He is one of those characters that would normally be lost to the background, but instead he pulls off as the scene stealer of the film. What immediately impressed me about this film is its simplicity, it had a stark quality, the scenery just had the essentials, and the dialogue was also simple, yet this movie packed quite a story within, and although it was simple, it definitely required strict observation on the part of the viewer to keep up with the events.

Someone quoted this film by saying, "...it was like watching Hitchcock, but on acid..." and I couldn't agree more!! I love movies like that, where you have to pay attention to EVERYTHING in order to fully understand what is going on. What really impressed me is that this is the Coen's first film, and how amazingly RIGHT they got it, on the first try.

Grade: ***** out of *****
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A classic, neo-noir film that will thrill you! Joel and Ethan Coen's "Blood Simple" marks the debut of Joel and Ethan Coen and also Barry Sonnenfeld in a true classic that cinema fans will want to own on Blu-ray!

"Blood Simple" was the film that started it all for the Coen brothers, receiving positive reviews from film critics, included in the American Film Institute's "100 Years...100 Thrills" and #73 on Bravo's "100 Scariest Movie Moments".

With the recent Blu-ray release of the 2009 Chinese remake of "Blood Simple" titled "A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop" from Zhang Yimou, there has been quite a bit of chatter of people wanting to see the original film that the movie was loosely based on.

And now the film receives it's Blu-ray release featuring the director's cut (which was released on DVD in 2001) and reinstating the Four Tops "It's the Same Old Song" as a theme and also including the interesting and intriguing audio commentary with Forever Young Films Kenneth Loring (a fictional artistic director who is actually using a script created by the Coen brothers).

"Blood Simple" is a film directed by Joel Coen and co-written with his brother Ethan Coen (both worked on "No Country for Old Men" "Fargo", "The Big Lebowski", "Raising Arizona" to name a few) and features Barry Sonnenfeld ("Get Shorty", "Men in Black" films, "Wild Wild West") as cinematographer. The film was also the first for composer Carter Burwell ("Twilight","No Country for Old Men", "Fargo", "True Grit", etc.).

VIDEO:

"Blood Simple" is presented in 1080p widescreen 1:85:1. Before the film begins, for those not familiar with the 2001 DVD release, this director's cut of the film features a fictional intro about the restoration of the film (which was written by the Coen Brothers). It's important to note that this is a 1984 film and while a lot of films shot during this time either look its age, look very soft or receive major restoration and look spectacular on Blu-ray, "Blood Simple" is a mix.

The intro with the title probably is what makes this film look its age but as the film continues, it actually looks very good, much better than its 2001 DVD release which looks more on the darker side and looks its age. It's important to remind viewers that this film was created on a limited budget but the brothers definitely get the job done.

Good amount of detail can be seen, especially on the closeups of the characters. Hint of softness which I expected from a mid-'80s film but black levels are good but personally, I feel this is probably the best this film will ever look for now and is definitely the definitive version to own.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

"Blood Simple" is presented in English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio and is a front channel driven soundtrack. I actually preferred to listen to this film with my receiver set at stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundtrack but I can say that listening to the film, dialogue is clear, including the musical soundtrack featuring the score by Carter Burwell.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

"Blood Simple" features audio commentary by Kenneth Loring of Forever Young Films. Note: This is is a fictional commentary written by the Coen Brothers for this film. So, listening to the audio commentary, it's a bit over-the-top but intriguing never-the-less. The trailer for the film is also included.

JUDGMENT CALL:

When you think of the Coen Brothers and their wonderful writing, there is no doubt in your mind that when watching their first film "Blood Simple", these two men were going to go far in their career. You can feel it, sense it and just know through their screenplay and also their first directorial effort, these guys are going to go far.

The efficacy of "Blood Simple" is through the complexity of the script and also the characters. Pacing is amazingly done and for the most part, the film was one thriller that was very much a memorable film. The final scenes were just amazing to watch but of course, the talented Coen Brothers continue to create wonderful films and they get better and better and for me, it's not as easy task to say which is the better Coen film, as they are great in their own way but "Blood Simple" gets its distinction for its thrilling scenes and most importantly, being the first film from the brothers (as well as for director/cinematographer/producer Barry Sonnenfeld). Even composer Carter Burwell made his debut on this film. So, needless to say...the film is what launched the careers for these men.

Well, here we are in 2011 with the Blu-ray release of "Blood Simple". I have to admit that I was anticipating the 25th anniversary release of "Blood Simple" last year but what we have is the director's cut of the original film which the Coen Brothers shortened a few scenes, made things tighter and re-instated the Four Tops songs back in 2001.

Yes, the fictional intro. with Kenneth Loring of Forever Young films is back (discussing the technological breakthrough in restoration) and of course, the intriguing fictional commentary. But outside of that, there is nothing new added since 2001 aside from the Blu-ray release getting a bump in picture and audio quality. So, I was hoping for a little more for this 25th or 26th anniversary of the film but I suppose the thinking is why mess with something that was solid already... granted, we have seen cast reunions for "The Big Lebowski", I was hoping maybe for a reunion or featurette or so.

Overall, "Blood Simple" is a classic and for cinema fans who love the film and Coen Brothers fans who owned the 2001 DVD release, this latest Blu-ray release is the definitive version to own right now.

Definitely recommended!
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