IF YOU take your comedy black, there's "Blood Simple." Minnesota brothers Joel and Ethan Coen come up with a healthy transfusion for badly abused, much-spoofed film noir with this broody, moody-blue movie, a spine-tingling tour de force. The ingenious plot is as twisted as a villain's sneer, as slick as the oil on a .45.
"Blood Simple" is set in Texas, so that along with the film's originality, there's all that regionality to freshen up noir's stale conventions: Ceiling-fan blades beat the steamy air, a constant theme, seen and heard. Southern accents and southernisms sound sweet and false all at once.
Character actor M. Emmet Walsh oozes evil, covered with cheap cologne and good ol' boy smarm. He plays a ruthless divorce detective who delights in what he imagines is a perfect murder. The corpse and his costars have other plans. Dan Hedaya as the jilted owner of a cowboy singles bar, Frances McDormand as his former wife, and John Getz as the bartender she runs away with make up the rest of the characters caught in the cryptic chicanery.
Diabolical humor, ironic camera angles, even the low budget place "Blood Simple" in the genre of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." But like "Repo Man" and "Diva," it's part of a new wave of mysteries that have evolved beyond parodies into funny, quirky works in a genre all their own.
"Blood Simple," a title that plays on complexities, up to and including the relationship of the filmmakers, is far from simple. The brothers Coen -- Joel the director, Ethan the producer -- have made an impressive start with this stylish, suspenseful, but gruesome first film.
BLOOD SIMPLE (R) -- At Circle Dupont.