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The Stories Behind 5 T-Shirt Brands You Wore in the '90s

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In the 1990s, there was nothing more important than being extreme and having a rude 'tude. It was a decade when people stopped being polite and started getting real, and everyone had the T-shirts to prove it. Here are the stories behind the companies that pumped out the raddest and baddest cotton tees.

1. Big Dogs

Big Dogs T-shirts are easy to spot thanks to the eponymous cartoon St. Bernard and in-your-face slogans like, “If You Can’t Fish With The Big Dogs, Stay On The Dock,” “Anger Management Classes…PISS ME OFF,” and, “How’s My Driving? Call 1-800-BITE-ME.” When the Big Dog isn't railing against bad fishermen or bad drivers, he's boasting about his drinking problem (“When I Read About The Evils of Drinking, I Gave Up Reading!”), musing on the awesomeness of sexual intercourse (“People That Say ‘It’s Better Than SEX’ Aren’t Having The Right Kind of SEX!”), or talking politics ("When Did 'For The People By The People' Become 'Screw The People?!'").

According to its website, Big Dogs Sportswear “was conceived in 1983 by friends during a weekend river-rafting expedition.” While corporate mythology should always be taken with a grain of salt—especially when it appears under a header marked “THE LEGEND”—the Big Dogs brand’s origin story goes like so: “Before the adventurous group made its way down the choppy white waters, each was presented with a pair of oversized, vividly colored shorts. Everyone loved the shorts and one enthusiastic member exclaimed, ‘Man, these puppies are BIG!’”

At its peak, there were 231 Big Dogs brick-and-mortar stores, each one full of 'tude-heavy tees, boxer shorts, and sweatshirts. The last of these stores closed in 2009, however, and in a letter to customers (complete with a “From The Desk Of The Big Dog” image), CEO Andrew Feshbach wrote, “Over the past 10 years, it became increasingly difficult to maintain a viable company due to the massive competitive pressure from huge mall retailers like The Gap or the giants like Wal-Mart.”

Big Dogs still exists online (the label itself is under The Walking Company umbrella), so you can pick up a “Big Dogs of the Caribbean” parody shirt from the comfort of your home.

2. No Fear

Launched in 1989 by twin brothers Mark and Brian Simo, No Fear quickly became one of the most popular sportswear companies in the country—and the most popular sportswear company so staunchly against being scared.

The Simo brothers were motocross racers and tree surgeons from Chicago who split their time between the Midwest and Florida. Surprised at the prevalence of Speedo-style bathing suits on Florida's beaches, the brothers (along with partner Jeff Theodosakis) decided to make an alternative: baggy surf shorts. According to the LA Times, they "sold their motocross bikes and bought sewing machines" and started Life's A Beach Surfwear out of their Chicago garage. They moved to Carlsbad, California in 1985 and teamed up with artist Mark “Boogaloo” Baagoe, who designed the company's "Bad Boy Club" logo.

Life's a Beach proved to be immensely popular, and the brothers started a new line: No Fear. "No Fear was our second company which was dubbed as dangerous sports gear," Baagoe, who designed that logo as well, recalls. "No Fear was all about dangerous sports goods: boxing, big wave riding, extreme fighting, mountain climbing, guys on skis killing big mountains, skaters, surfers hitting 100-foot waves, drag racers...that sort of stuff."

No Fear initially sponsored motocross teams, but soon branched out to other adventure sports. The brand became synonymous with the "X-treme" culture of the 1990s, and it posted hundreds of millions of dollars in profits during the middle of the decade.

While T-Shirts and logo-heavy clothing were the No Fear empire's bread and butter, they had their extreme fingers in many extreme pies—like when they lent their name to the 1995 Super Nintendo game Kyle Petty's No Fear Racing:

No Fear trademarked more than 50 slogans like "Fearless" and "So Cal," and the company was rather litigious and aggressive in defending its brand (check out this failed lawsuit against someone making "NO SPILLS, NO THRILLS" T-Shirts, and this letter to Senator Orrin Hatch supporting the Anti-Counterfeiting Act of 1995).

As the '90s gave way to the far less extreme aughts, No Fear refused to go gentle into that good night. They opened outlet stores in 2000, partnered with Pepsi in 2004 to produce energy drinks, and launched an annual music tour in 2007. The extreme ride couldn't last forever though, and No Fear, Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011.

3. B.U.M. Equipment

Let's get this out of the way first: "B.U.M." doesn't stand for anything—it's an acronym in spirit only. B.U.M. Equipment's puff-printed logo first appeared on sweatshirts in 1986. Seattle clothing designer Derek Federman created the look in his garage and soon sold the brand to Chauvin International, Ltd., an L.A. manufacturing company owned by businessman Morty Forshpan. (Federman left in 1988 after disagreements over B.U.M.'s direction.)

In a 1993 L.A. Times profile, Forshpan—who wasn't a clothing designer by trade and "acknowledges he's never picked up a sketch pad"—attributed the label's success in the early '90s to celebrities like Wayne Gretzky and Jason Priestley, who wore the simple athletic gear in public (the article is unclear about whether or not they were getting paid). "The customer can identify with these people," Forshpan told the L.A. Times reporter while showing him "a Billy Ray Cyrus concert program featuring the singer in a B.U.M. sweat shirt."

B.U.M.'s sales were estimated to be around $300 million in 1994, but its growth was not sustainable and the company began losing money. In 1995, B.U.M. was named in a lawsuit filed by 68 Thai garment workers who "toiled in alleged prison-like conditions" in El Monte, California before being freed by federal authorities.

B.U.M. Equipment filed for bankruptcy in 1996.

4. Big Johnson

For fans of penis puns and buxom cartoon women, Big Johnson T-shirts must have represented a cultural apex. The shirts, which flew off shelves at boardwalk stores across the country, featured E. Normus Johnson, a bespectacled pervert who maintained various small businesses with slogans that weren't exactly Oscar Wilde-ian in their wordplay:

-Big Johnson's Bar & Casino: Liquor Up Front, Poker in the Rear
-Big Johnson Landscaping: Call Us When It's Time to Trim a Little Bush
-Big Johnson Contractors: We Don't Stop Until You Get Drilled, Nailed and Hammered

Big Johnson is a subsidiary of Maryland Screen Printers, a company started in the late '80s by Garrett Pfeifer and his brother Craig. After the 26-year-old Pfiefer quit his job as a tax attorney, he and his brother sold bootleg T-shirts at football games to make a quick buck. Encouraged by the small venture's profitability, they decided to take it full-time.

According to Baltimore City Paper, Big Johnson didn't come into play until a local DJ named Batman "brought the two brothers a breast-happy T-shirt design that had been drawn by a...frustrated ex-history teacher named Al Via."

Via was hired full-time, and he started cranking out bawdy designs for the brothers. According to Pfeifer, Al's strength was the ability to "create a complicated scene on a T-shirt—some of them have 40 or 50 people—and make it feel organized and readable." That, and the penis puns. Via came up with the first official Big Johnson shirt in 1989 and it was an immediate hit in stores in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The brand's popularity peaked in the mid-'90s, and Inc. Magazine named Maryland Screen Printers one of America's fastest growing companies in 1993 and 1994.

All this popularity didn't come without its share of controversy. Big Johnson tees were banned at Walt Disney World Resorts because of their lewd designs. In 1995, E. Normus Johnson was caught up in a legal fight when a man was ordered to remove Big Johnson T-shirts from his store, which was located inside the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. According to the Baltimore Sun, the shirts featured "sexual innuendoes about firefighters and women...[and] prompted complaints from women who were training at the fire academy." The store's owner filed a federal lawsuit claiming his First Amendment rights were being violated, but dropped the suit when he was offered more retail space in the building (he still wasn't allowed to sell the shirts).

Big Johnson still exists, albeit in a much smaller capacity. Maryland Screen Printers' focus today is primarily on blander designs for clients like Major League Baseball. No penis puns there, although we're sure it's pretty tempting.

5. AND1

“The revolution began on the streets of Philly in 1993," an old version of the AND1 website boasted. In reality, it started as a project at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Grad student Seth Berger and a group of friends developed a brand that was all about basketball—and only basketball—and they intended to use streetball culture as a way to slip into the market.

"We want to be the number-one basketball company in the world," Berger told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1996. He actually came close—at its peak in the mid-'90s, AND1 managed to become the second biggest basketball brand (in terms of market share) in the U.S.

Signing much-hyped teenager Stephon Marbury and controversial all-star Latrell Sprewell (right after he choked his coach) to wear AND1 shoes helped the company's popularity, but the brand initially made its name via T-shirts. These featured a "faceless and raceless" character known only as "The Player," who, according to AND1, was "an icon" who "made it okay to talk trash as long as you could back it up." The tees had slogans like "I saw a picture of your game on a milk carton'' and "Your game's as ugly as your girl," and each one was an attempt to crystallize AND1's streetball persona (which, it's worth reminding ourselves here, was invented by Wharton grad students).

The company branched out to video games and "AND1 Mixtape" streetball tournaments, but it lost a third of its value by 2005, when Berger ultimately sold AND1 to American Sporting Goods. The brand survives, but their T-shirts are far more subdued today, meaning you better hit ebay if you want to insult a hypothetical opponent with your clothing.

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11 Things You Didn't Know About Dolly Parton
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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.


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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.


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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
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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
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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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