Get Your Reps In: Coen Brothers’ Debut “Blood Simple” Holds One of the Late M. Emmet Walsh’s Strongest Performances

What to see at Portland’s repertory theaters.

Blood Simple E. Emmet Walsh (IMDB/Getty Images)

Blood Simple (1984)

When M. Emmet Walsh passed away in March, we lost one of a dying breed of character actors—always earthy, sometimes feral, like he’d slipped off a barstool somewhere and just stepped in front of the camera.

In Blood Simple (1984)—the lean, mean Coen Brothers debut—Walsh plays a treacherous private investigator embroiled in the plot of a jealous husband (Dan Hedaya) to kill his wife (Frances McDormand) and her lover (John Getz).

Blood Simple screens on May 11 at Hollywood Theatre. It’s shockingly accomplished in terms of tone and technique (for being a first feature) and haunted by one of Carter Burwell’s best piano scores.

But the hat tip today must be to Walsh—the way his character wheezes like an asthmatic hyena at his own crass jokes but becomes terrifyingly serious come killin’ time. Flies and beetles repeatedly swarm his sweating brow, like the devil’s halo. How you get the acting assist from insects, only the greats know. Hollywood Theatre, May 11.


Academy: The Wicker Man (1973), May 10–16. Paprika (2006), May 10–16. Shadow of a Doubt (1943), May 10–16. Cinema 21: A Matter of Life and Death (1946), May 11. Cinemagic: The Evil Dead (1981), May 10, 11 and 15. Evil Dead 2 (1987), May 11, 12, and 16. Army of Darkness (1992), May 11, 12, and 15. Evil Dead (2013), May 13 and 14. Evil Dead Rise (2023), May 13 and 14. Clinton Street: Batman & Robin (1997), May 10. Conan the Barbarian (1982), May 11. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), May 11. School of the Holy Beast (1974), May 12. Donkey Skin (1970), May 14. Hollywood: Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), May 10. RRR (2022), May 11. Gummo (1997), May 11. Dope Is Death (2020), May 12. 10 Brothers of Shaolin (1977), May 14. Tomorrow: Chungking Express (1994), May 11. Mommie Dearest (1981), May 12. Steel Magnolias (1989), May 12.

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