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Dark Horse Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics

Every Wednesday, I preview the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web. If there's a release you're excited about, let's talk about it in the comments.

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story


Written by Vivek J. Tiwary; art by Andrew Robinson and Kyle Baker
Dark Horse M Press

There have been many books written about the legend of the Beatles over the years, but even the peripheral figures who were there during the Fab Four's rise to fame have interesting stories. Some of the people telling these stories have taken to the graphic novel format, perhaps so they can capitalize on the iconic imagery associated with the band. A couple of years back we saw a beautifully illustrated graphic novel about the tragic love story between former Beatle Stu Sutcliffe and photographer Astrid Kirchherr called Baby's in Black. This week brings another gorgeously produced book, this time about the Beatles' manager and the man responsible for making them famous, Brian Epstein.

In The Fifth Beatle, Vivek Tiwary has extensively researched the life of Brian Epstein, a project that has taken him over ten years to complete and has utilized the amazing artistic talents of Andrew Robinson to make this one of the most visually compelling graphic novels of the year. Tiwary is a Broadway and film producer who has never written a graphic novel before. He seems to have plans to bring this story to film as evidenced by the mysterious "The Film" tab on the book's official website. As someone who bridges the business and creative sides of entertainment himself, the story of The Beatles' intrepid manager seemed to be one he could attach his own feelings and aspirations to pretty readily.

The real star of this book, however, is Robinson, who has done mostly cover work since making an initial splash with his creator-owned sci-fi western Dusty Star back in 1997. His work here is simply stunning. He uses a combination of watercolor, marker and ink to create caricatured, yet realistically detailed drawings that feel like Mad magazine's Mort Drucker combined with the cinematic sheen of a beautiful animated film. Robinson's page designs are like wonderful, fully rendered paintings without feeling stationary, especially when he uses a number of widescreen, double page spreads. The only thing missing is a soundtrack. In one sequence he uses a superimposed image of the 45 record of "Love Me Do" over scenes of Epstein and company tracking the single's climb up the charts. It's done in a way that reminds you of a film montage set to a rollicking hit song. 

Robinson is joined by legendary cartoonist and animator Kyle Baker, who takes over the book for a sequence in which Epstein and the Beatles go on an adventurous trip to the Philippines. Baker's cartooning style is much looser and crazier than Robinson's, and he gives the scene the feel of a dreamy interlude, even though much of the core story is already peppered with imaginary elements.

Epstein's story is fascinating both for his managerial skills and because he was a gay man (as well as a Jew) living in the U.K. when homosexuality was still illegal. Despite his success, his life was lonely and tragic until his sudden death from a drug overdose in 1967 at the age of 34. Seeing how Epstein had to struggle and hide in a less enlightened era prompts you to reflect on how far we have come, and how far we still need to go.

Tiwary is admittedly very loose with the facts in this book and even has Epstein say, "You can't believe everything you read. Especially when it comes to myself and the Beatles." There are a number of hallucinatory scenes, and at least one character that is a fictional construct. This may turn off some readers who prefer strictly factual biographies, but maybe this book is about the bigger picture and the beautiful pictures it brings with it.


Dark Horse has a preview of the book on their website. Or you can find out more at the book's official website.

Meet The Somalis


By Benjamin Dix and Lindsay Pollock
Open Society Foundations

Journalist Benjamin Dix and cartoonist Lindsay Pollock spent six months this year interviewing Somali immigrants living in seven European cities – Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Leicester, London, Malmo, and Oslo – about the experiences they and their families have been through since fleeing their homeland and assimilating in Europe. Dix and Pollock have turned their hours of interviews into 14 first-person accounts that Pollock has illustrated into emotionally engaging and personal stories they've called Meet The Somalis.

Reading through these comics I was struck by how many similar unfortunate scenarios seem to play themselves out in multiple stories: the refugees whose lives are put on hold for years while being forced to explain their escape over and over to officials looking for a reason to send them back; the young men arrested because their skin color or religious garb make them a suspect; the guilt and longing for family back in Somalia and the lives they had before war ravaged their home. I mention these similarities not to say the stories are repetitive (they are definitely not) but to underscore the sense of shared experiences that have affected a large group of people in different ways. Each account is unique and fascinating, and each makes for a captivating little story on its own. Pollock does an outstanding job bringing these stories to life, relaying the personality and character of each Somali she and Dix have interviewed. 

Each of these stories really stuck with me after reading them. Some are emotionally wrenching, but some are heartwarming and uplifting as well. In the span of just a few pages each, they manage to give you such a clear sense of the struggles these men and women and their families have faced that you are rooting for them to achieve as much of their dreams as is possible. In some cases, these dreams are hopefully achievable goals like earning enough money to send home to their family, doing well enough in school to get into the university of their choice, making new friends in their new European community. In other cases the dreams are seemingly hopeless: returning to the Somalia they once loved, being reunited with their families, escaping bigotry and suspicion from the white Europeans that now surround them.

I found out about Meet The Somalis via a blog post by comics critic Zainab Ahktar who writes a very heartfelt review of it here. I'm not aware of other cartooning work that Pollock had done, but her work here is impressive, especially if it is a debut. The nature of this piece and her cartoony, crosshatching style is very reminiscent of the great comics journalist Joe Sacco. Hopefully we will see more projects like this from her.


The Meet The Somalis comic was made possible by the Open Society Foundations' At Home in Europe Project whose mission is to advance equality for groups that find themselves excluded from civic, political and cultural life in Europe. They have made the comic available on their website here. I would recommend downloading and reading it via the PDF link in the sidebar rather than the web interface they've provided.

Harley Quinn #0


Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner; art by various
DC Comics

If you were ever a fan of Batman: The Animated Series from the '90s, you are no doubt familiar with Harley Quinn, the Joker's right hand woman. An original character from that series, she eventually became a supporting villain in the Batman comics. Her personality on the show, with her "Girl Friday" moxie and over-the-top Brooklyn accent, made her extremely popular with fans, and she has been a staple of the comics convention cosplay circuit ever since. This week, DC launches her own ongoing series with an issue 0 illustrated by seventeen high profile artists.

Harley Quinn has courted some controversy recently. The "New 52" version (after the 2012 reboot of the DC Universe) has seen her represented as more psychotically violent and scantily clad than fans of the character's original rendition appreciated. Her appearances in Suicide Squad have been lumped in with numerous examples of DC representing their female characters as sexual objects. In the lead-up to this series, DC promoted a contest for up-and-coming artists to draw a page in this opening issue. The scene DC chose to promote the contest required artists to draw her on the verge of electrocuting herself while naked in a bathtub. In fairness, the character is often steeped in outlandish, consequence-free violence like something out of an old Warner Bros. cartoon. Without that context though, the contest seemed tone-deaf, and DC had to issue an apology.

We'll see how that scene works and who the winning artist is in this star-studded issue featuring artists such as Darwyn Cooke, Becky Cloonan, Jim Lee, Walt Simonson, Harley Quinn creator Bruce Timm, and the series' ongoing artist, Chad Hardin. 

Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor will be writing the series. They have some history with taking an overly sexualized DC character and giving her some personality after they pulled off the trick with Power Girl back in the mid-2000s. In that short-lived but critically acclaimed series, they brought a sense of humor and some modern sensibility to a character that had become known only for her cleavage. Harley Quinn is a different kind of character, and it looks like Palmiotti and Connor will play up the humor but steer clear of reality. This issue frequently breaks the fourth wall with characters and comic creators interacting on the page.


Here's a preview of a few pages and another preview here.

Violenzia


By Richard Sala
Fantagraphics

Venerable comics publisher Fantagraphics made news last week by launching a Kickstarter to crowd fund their next season of books to stay afloat. They easily reached their goal within a week in what may end up being a game changer in terms of the public perception of publishers using Kickstarter to offset some of their risk. It was an unexpected move for Fantagraphics, a publisher more associated with reprinting classic comic strips than actively engaging in modern Internet-related networks.

This week they've made another unexpected first. At the urging of cartoonist Richard Sala, they are releasing his latest comic as a "digital first" release through Comixology before it is available in print. Sala is a veteran of the comics industry (as well as animation) having gotten his start back in Art Spiegelman's RAW magazine in the '80s. He has a number of horror and mystery graphic novels to his name such as Peculia and Delphine. His whimsical, almost children's-book drawing style, mixed with black humor and frightening violence, has influenced many of today's up and coming artists such as Emily Carroll.

In Violenzia, Sala introduces a new female heroine who stoically disrupts ritualistic sacrifices and Appalachian meth labs with two handguns and an endless supply of bullets. The violence is mostly bloodless but with a Tarantino-level body count. It's a light read and a nice low cost entry into discovering Sala's work.

You can buy Violenzia on Comixology for $4.99.

Hawaii


By Jed McGowan
www.jedmcgowan.com

Jed McGowan released a new webcomic this week called simply "Hawaii" that tackles the "life story" of the islands, beginning with their volcanic birth at the bottom of the ocean 500,000 years ago and ending with their last rocky remains crumbling back into the sea 20,000,000 years from now. It's a wordless and wonderful exploration of geographic cycles at an extreme macro level.

McGowan describes himself as a "science nerd." Not only did the depiction of what happens when a volcanic island is formed appeal to him, but the way he has depicted it is a visual homage to "pre-digital age" science illustrations from the mid-20th century. While scrolling through the panels of the comic on his website, you get the feeling that you are looking at scans from an old magazine or text book from the 1950s. He achieved this look by drawing in charcoal on paper and then digitally coloring and manipulating the image. The effect makes it feel both retro and brand new at the same time. Perhaps because the subject is such a classic tourist destination, I also got the feeling of looking at an old travel brochure despite the fact that human life makes only the barest of cameo appearances in these pictures. 

You can read "Hawaii" on McGowan's website where he also has some of his previous comics for sale, including his graphic novel Lone Pine which won a prestigious Xeric Grant in 2010. You can also read his webcomic called "Voyager" from earlier this year, where you can see he first worked out some of the techniques and themes he plays with in "Hawaii."

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11 Things You Didn't Know About Dolly Parton
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images

Over the past 50-some years, Dolly Parton has gone from a chipper country starlet to a worldwide icon of music and movies whose fans consistently pack a theme park designed (and named) in her honor. Dolly Parton is loved, lauded, and larger than life. But even her most devoted admirers might not know all there is to this Backwoods Barbie.

1. YOU WON'T FIND HER ON A DOLLYWOOD ROLLER COASTER.

Her theme park Dollywood offers a wide variety of attractions for all ages. Though she's owned it for more than 30 years, Parton has declined to partake in any of its rides. "My daddy used to say, 'I could never be a sailor. I could never be a miner. I could never be a pilot,' I am the same way," she once explained. "I have motion sickness. I could never ride some of these rides. I used to get sick on the school bus."

2. SHE ENTERED A DOLLY PARTON LOOK-A-LIKE CONTEST—AND LOST.


Getty Images

Apparently Parton doesn't do drag well. “At a Halloween contest years ago on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the guys were dressed up like me, I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage," she told ABC. "I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think.”

3. SHE SPENT A FORTUNE TO RECREATE HER CHILDHOOD HOME.

Parton and her 11 siblings were raised in a small house in the mountains of Tennessee that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. When Parton bought the place, she hired her brother Bobby to restore it to the way it looked when they were kids. "But we wanted it to be functional," she recounted on The Nate Berkus Show, "So I spent a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it! Even like in the bathroom, I made the bathroom so it looked like an outdoor toilet.” You do you, Dolly.

4. SHE WON'T APOLOGIZE FOR RHINESTONE.


Getty Images

Parton is well-known for her hit movies Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5, less so for the 1984 flop Rhinestone. The comedy musical about a country singer and a New York cabbie was critically reviled and fled from theaters in just four weeks. But while her co-star Sylvester Stallone has publicly regretted the vehicle, Parton declared in her autobiography My Life and Other Unfinished Business that she counts Rhinestone's soundtrack as some of her best work, especially "What a Heartache."

5. SHE IS MILEY CYRUS'S GODMOTHER, SORT OF.

"I'm her honorary godmother. I've known her since she was a baby," Parton told ABC of her close relationship with Miley Cyrus. "Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) is a friend of mine. And when she was born, he said, 'You just have to be her godmother,' and I said, 'I accept.' We never did do a big ceremony, but I'm so proud of her, love her, and she's just like one of my own." Parton also played Aunt Dolly on Cyrus's series Hannah Montana.

6. SHE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS FROM THE KU KLUX KLAN.

A photo of Dolly Parton on stage
Getty Images

In the mid-2000s, Dollywood joined the ranks of family amusement parks participating in "Gay Days," a time when families with LGBT members are encouraged to celebrate together in a welcoming community environment. This riled the KKK, but their threats didn't scare Dolly. "I still get threats," she has admitted, "But like I said, I'm in business. I just don't feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody."

7. TO PROMOTE LITERACY, SHE STARTED HER OWN "LIBRARY."

In 1995, the pop culture icon founded Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with the goal of encouraging literacy in her home state of Tennessee. Over the years, the program—built to mail children age-appropriate books—spread nationwide, as well as to Canada, the UK, and Australia. When word of the Imagination Library hit Reddit, the swarms of parents eager to sign their kids up crashed the Imagination Library site. It is now back on track, accepting new registrations and donations.

8. PARTON'S HOMETOWN HAS A STATUE IN HER HONOR.

A stone's throw from Dollywood, Sevierville, Tennessee is where Parton grew up. Between stimulating tourism and her philanthropy, this proud native has given a lot back to her hometown. And Sevierville residents returned that appreciation with a life-sized bronze Dolly that sits barefoot, beaming, and cradling a guitar, just outside the county courthouse. The sculpture, made by local artist Jim Gray, was dedicated on May 3, 1987. Today it is the most popular stop on Sevierville's walking tour.

9. THE CLONED SHEEP DOLLY WAS NAMED AFTER PARTON.

In 1995 scientists successfully created a clone from an adult mammal's somatic cell. This game-changing breakthrough in biology was named Dolly. But what about Parton inspired this honor? Her own groundbreaking career? Some signature witticism or beloved lyric? Nope. It was her legendary bustline. English embryologist Ian Wilmut revealed, "Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn't think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton's."

10. SHE TURNED DOWN ELVIS.

After Parton made her own hit out of "I Will Always Love You," Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, reached out in hopes of having Presley cover it. But part of the deal demanded Parton surrender half of the publishing rights to the song. "Other people were saying, 'You're nuts. It's Elvis Presley. I'd give him all of it!'" Parton admitted, "But I said, 'I can't do that. Something in my heart says don't do that.' And I didn't do it and they didn't do it." It may have been for the best. Whitney Houston's cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992 was a massive hit that has paid off again and again for Parton.

11. SHE JUST EARNED TWO GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.

Parton is no stranger to breaking records. And on January 17, 2018 it was announced that she holds not one but two spot in the Guinness World Records 2018 edition: One for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart (she beat out George Jones, Reba McEntire, and Elvis Presley for the honor) and the other for Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist (with a total of 107). Parton said she was "humbled and blessed."

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15 Fascinating Facts About Blood Simple
Janus Films
Janus Films

Ethan and Joel Coen hadn’t made a feature film of their own until they set out to write, direct, produce, and edit Blood Simple, a bloody Texas-set noir about a cuckold husband named Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) who hires a private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) to murder his cheating wife (Frances McDormand) and her lover (John Getz). The filmmakers wanted a small budget like a horror film, but preferred making an entertaining B-film. Before production started, the Coens created a two-minute trailer and showed it to investors, which allowed them to raise an impressive $750,000 (which was half of the final budget).

In January of 1985, the movie was released in theaters and grossed $2,150,000. In its 2000 theatrical re-release, the movie added another $1.7 million to its box office haul. The low-budget film set the standard for the wave of American indie films to come, and it established the Coens as two of the most important voices in cinema. It also launched the careers of Frances McDormand and cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld (who would later turn to directing).

Here are 15 facts about the noir thriller, which arrived in theaters on this day in 1985.

1. ITS TITLE WAS INSPIRED BY DASHIELL HAMMETT’S RED HARVEST.

“It’s an expression he used to describe what happens to somebody psychologically once they’ve committed murder,” Joel Coen told Time Out. “They go ‘blood simple’ in the slang sense of ‘simple,’ meaning crazy. But it’s left up to the audience to ponder the implications; they’re never spelled out in the film itself.”

2. THE COENS SPECIFICALLY WROTE THE PART OF LOREN VISSER FOR M. EMMET WALSH.

Blood Simple started something else that we’ve done pretty much on every subsequent movie, which was that we’ve always written parts for specific actors,” Joel Coen said in the book My First Movie. The brothers knew Walsh from the film Straight Time, in which he played a sleazy character. “Actually, it was a more interesting character than what we came up with in Blood Simple inasmuch as it was more ambiguous,” Joel said. They offered him the part without having him audition, but ran into a dilemma. “All I remember is we didn’t know what the hell to call him,” Ethan said. “I mean, what the hell do you call him when you meet him? M?”

3. THE COENS—AND MANY OF THE CAST AND CREW—HAD NEVER BEEN ON A FILM SET BEFORE.

Joel Coen admitted in My First Movie, “The first day of shooting on Blood Simple was the first time I’d ever been on a feature movie set in any capacity, even as a visitor.” Coen had previously worked as an assistant editor on horror films, including 1981’s The Evil Dead. Coen mentioned how Sonnenfeld would throw up after looking at the dailies, because he was so nervous working on the film. “Everyone was in the same boat,” Joel said. “The gaffer had never gaffered a feature. The sound guy, the mixer on the set, had never mixed a feature.”

4. THE COENS CHOSE TO MAKE A FILM NOIR BECAUSE OF THE GENRE’S PRACTICALITY.

Dan Hedaya and M. Emmet Walsh in 'Blood Simple' (1984)
Janus Films

The Coens liked hard-boiled fiction authors James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, and used them to their advantage in writing the script. “It’s certainly a genre that is entertaining, and we also picked it for very practical reasons,” Ethan said. “We knew we weren’t going to have a big budget. The financing would not allow it. We could build something on the genre and the appeal it has.”

“It’s also a genre that allows you to get by rather modestly in some ways,” Joel added. “You can limit the number of characters, put them into a confined set. There’s no need to go for large-scale effects or scatter them through the film, and those cost a lot of money. So it was a pragmatic decision that determined what film we would make.”

5. BUT THEY DIDN’T WANT TO PARODY FILM NOIR.

In a 1985 interview, featured in the book The Coen Brothers: Interviews, Ethan said, “When people call Blood Simple a film noir, they’re correct to the extent that we like the same kind of stories that the people who made those movies like. We tried to emulate the source that those movies came from rather than the movies themselves.” They didn’t want to make “a venetian blind movie,” but movies like The Conformist and The Third Man inspired the look of Blood Simple.

Because of the comedic elements in the film, some people might think the movie is trying to parody the thriller genre. “On one hand, it is a thriller, and, on the other, it is funny,” Ethan said. “But certainly the film is supposed to work as a thriller and I don’t think it would work as both at once.”

6. THEY BORROWED AN INVESTMENT TACTIC FROM SAM RAIMI.

Their friend Sam Raimi had shot a trailer for his film The Evil Dead and raised $60,000 toward the budget after showing it to investors. “He financed the movie using a common thing that people making exploitation movies had used, which was a limited partnership,” Joel said in My First Movie. “What we also borrowed from Sam and the other models was that I presented more of an action exploitation type movie than it ended up being, and in fact than we knew it would be.”

The Coens didn’t know many people, so they decided to take a projector and the trailer to entrepreneurs’ homes in New York, Texas, and Minnesota. “If you call people up and say, ‘Can you give me 10 minutes so I can present an opportunity to invest in a movie?’ They’re going to say, ‘No, I don’t need this,’ and hang up the phone,” Joel said in My First Movie. “But it’s slightly different if you call and say, ‘Can I come over and take 10 minutes and show you a piece of film?’ All of a sudden that intrigues them and gets your foot in the door.” Eventually, all 65 investors made a profit from their investment.

The investor trailer finally surfaced online and features Bruce Campbell in the Dan Hedaya role.

7. NONE OF THE MAJOR STUDIOS WANTED TO DISTRIBUTE IT.

The Coens took time editing the film, and started shopping the movie around in 1984. Warner Bros. rejected it, but an indie company agreed to distribute it with a slight change. “We took it to Crown International Pictures and the guy would say, ‘If you have some nudity you can put in there maybe we can distribute it,’” Joel said in My First Movie. “We saw everybody from the studios to the lowliest sleaze-bucket distributors in L.A. And they all said no.” Circle Films picked up the movie after seeing a screening of it at the Toronto Film Festival. When the movie came out with good reviews, Warner tried to buy it from Circle to no avail.

8. M. EMMET WALSH COULDN’T BLOW SMOKE RINGS.

At first the actor was skeptical of starring in a movie where he probably wouldn’t make any money, but he gave the Coens a chance. Joel asked Walsh if he could blow a smoke ring from cigarette smoke and he said he would try. “I just couldn’t do it,” Walsh said. “I worked and worked on it, but I started to make myself sick.” The Coens brought in a smoke machine to make the smoke rings but the machine broke during filming. “The script gal says, ‘Give me a damn cigar. I grew up with five brothers smoking behind a barn,’” Walsh said. “So they give her a cigar and she starts making these incredible smoke rings. I said to myself, ‘My God, this is how you make a movie!’ Later on, I went outside and saw her puking her brains out. That was Blood Simple.”

9. THE COENS HAD AN INCIDENT WITH ONE OF THEIR POTENTIAL INVESTORS.

“There was one investor we went to and we hit his car, parking,” Ethan said in My First Movie. “And we had this big debate out on the driveway [about] whether we should tell him we hit his car before the sales pitch or after the sales pitch. We decided that we wouldn’t tell him until we showed him the movie and made the sales pitch.” The investor decided against investing in the film.

10. FRANCES MCDORMAND REFUSED TO BE “THEATRICAL” IN THE MOVIE.

John Getz and Frances McDorman in 'Blood Simple' (1984)
Janus Films

Up until she starred in Blood Simple, the future Oscar-winner had mainly done theater and some TV. In an interview with William Dafoe for Bomb Magazine, she told him her approach to playing Abby Marty. “The only choice I made was not to be theatrical,” she said. “I never moved my face and my mouth’s always open like I’m terrified—I was a lot of the time. I just did whatever they told me to do, which was perfect for the character, but it’s not like I made that decision as a character choice. It was from not knowing what to do.”

11. JOEL COEN WOOED FRANCES MCDORMAND WITH LITERATURE.

Coen and McDormand fell in love while making Blood Simple and got married a couple of years later, after production wrapped. McDormand told The Daily Beast about the moment when she roped him in. “I’d only brought one book to read to Austin, Texas, where we were filming, and I asked him if there was anything he’d recommend,” she said. “He brought me a box of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler paperbacks, and I said, ‘Which one should I start with?’ And he said, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ I read it, and it was one of the sexiest f*ckin’ books I’ve ever read. A couple of nights later, I said, ‘Would you like to come over and discuss the book?’ That did it. He seduced me with literature. And then we discussed books and drank hot chocolate for several evenings. It was f*ckin’ hot. Keep it across the room for as long as you can—that’s a very important element.”

12. THE COENS RELEASED A SHORTER VERSION OF THE FILM.

Blood Simple got the Director’s Cut treatment in 2001, but instead of adding material to the re-release of the movie, the Coens removed a few minutes from it. “We always thought it was rather kind of clumsy, the editing,” Joel told Hollywood.com. “It was interesting to go in and try to tighten the movie up.” “Before, the original version was like an old lady with a walker, and now it just has a cane,” Ethan said. The newer version also brought back the Four Tops’ “It’s the Same Old Song,” which had been in the original theatrical release but had been replaced with Neil Diamond’s “I’m a Believer” in the VHS release.

13. THE COENS THINK THE MOVIE IS “PRETTY DAMN BAD.”

A scene from 'Blood Simple' (1984)
Janus Films

Fifteen years after Blood Simple’s release, the Coens reflected upon their first feature, in the 2000 book My First Movie. “It’s crude, there’s no getting around it,” Ethan said. “On the other hand, it’s all confused with the actual process of making the movie and finishing the movie which, by and large, was a positive experience,” Joel said. “You never get entirely divorced from it that way. So, I don’t know. It’s a movie that I have a certain affection for. But I think it’s pretty damn bad!”

14. ZHANG YIMOU REMADE THE FILM.

Director Zhang Yimou—who directed House of Flying Daggers and Heroremade Blood Simple in 2009 as A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop. The move is set in a Chinese noodle shop in a desert, and in similar fashion, the plot centers on a man trying to kill his wife and her lover.

15. BLOOD SIMPLE BEGAT RAISING ARIZONA AND FARGO.

Two years after Blood Simple was released, the Coens wrote-directed their follow-up, Raising Arizona, which wasn’t anything like Blood Simple. “In essence, after having completed Blood Simple, we wanted to make something completely different,” Ethan said. “We didn’t know what, but we wanted it to be something funny that had a very quick rhythm. We also wanted to use Holly Hunter, who has been a friend of ours for a long time. So it really wasn’t the story that was the origin of the project, but Holly Hunter, her personality and, by extension, the character we had conceived for her to play. In contrast, Blood Simple took shape from an idea for a screenplay.” It should be noted Hunter provided her voice on an answering machine in Blood Simple.

More than a decade after Blood Simple came out, the Coens released Fargo. The Coens’ dealings with investors for Blood Simple inspired the film’s businessmen. “It was raising money for Blood Simple that we met all of these business guys who could wear the suits, get bundled up in the park and slog out in the snow and meet us in these, like, coffee shops,” Joel said in My First Movie. “We came back to that whole thing in Fargo: the car salesman, the guy who owns the bowling alley, you know, whatever.”

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