Ganja and Hess

Ganja and Hess

Director: Bill Gunn, Candece Tarpley, Duane Jones, Marlene Clark

Cast: Bill Gunn, Candece Tarpley, Duane Jones, Marlene Clark

     
 

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A scientist stricken with an insatiable hunger for blood dominates this strikingly atmospheric drama. Dr. Hess Green (Duane Jones), a wealthy and respected African-American anthropologist, is assigned a new assistant, an intelligent but unstable man named George Meda (Bill Gunn). One drunken night, George stabs Hess with a dagger from the ancient African tribe of

Overview

A scientist stricken with an insatiable hunger for blood dominates this strikingly atmospheric drama. Dr. Hess Green (Duane Jones), a wealthy and respected African-American anthropologist, is assigned a new assistant, an intelligent but unstable man named George Meda (Bill Gunn). One drunken night, George stabs Hess with a dagger from the ancient African tribe of Myrthia and then kills himself. The Myrthians were cursed with a thirst for human blood, and, by the time George's wife, Ganja (Marlene Clark), comes looking for him, Hess has developed a similar addiction to blood. Hess and Ganja fall in love, and they soon marry, but Hess infects his new bride with the Myrthian curse, which gives them eternal life, but at a terrible price. Actor, playwright, and novelist Bill Gunn was hired to write and direct a low-budget black vampire movie, but instead he delivered a thoughtful, impressionistic film that uses addiction to blood as a metaphor for African-American cultural and spiritual identity (and never once uses the word "vampire"). Ganja and Hess proved too deliberately paced and self-consciously surreal for the producers, who chopped it to 83 minutes, removed Sam Waymon's superb musical score, and retitled it Blood Couple. This mangled version was for many years the only one available, and it appeared under six different titles on home video before Bill Gunn's original version was restored for DVD release in 1998.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
Ganja and Hess is a film that exists in an odd sort of limbo -- while a handful of fans (among them Spike Lee, James Monaco, and Tim Lucas) consider it a masterpiece, the film has been so inaccessible for so long that plenty of knowledgeable film enthusiasts have never even heard of it, and until recently most interested film buffs were forced to make do with the incoherent short version of the film (variously titled Double Possession, Blood Couple, and Black Vampire, among other things) which was ineptly re-cut to more easily sell the picture as a horror film. But Bill Gunn's original edit of Ganja and Hess (now thankfully available on DVD) not only doesn't play by the rules of a horror film, it eagerly confronts the formal structures of American genre filmmaking in general. Ganja and Hess is a film about addiction, not vampirism; and as Hess Green's dependence on human blood grows, it pulls him toward a heritage and a mindset that he's preferred to ignore as an educated and assimilated African-American, while his relationship with Ganja Meda at once parallels his dilemma and intensifies it. Ganja and Hess is a elliptical, dreamlike film that often disdains the literal in favor of the imagined or implied, and for a filmmaker with only one picture to his credit, it's a remarkably accomplished and visionary work. With a valuable assist from cinematographer E. James Hinton, Gunn brings a rich and troubling atmosphere to the proceedings, and he draws excellent performances from Duane Jones and Marlene Clark, both of whom are strong enough to make clear just how poorly they'd been used in most of their previous roles. While it's flawed in some small ways, and its pacing begins to flag in the last act, Ganja and Hess remains a singular work from a unique creative mind. If you're hoping for a knock-off of Blacula, you'll be disappointed, but if the notion of Carl Dreyer's Vampyr viewed from an African-American cultural perspective sounds intriguing to you, this is a film you ought to seek out.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/08/2012
UPC:
0738329084929
Original Release:
1973
Source:
Kino Video
Time:
1:53:00
Sales rank:
45,167

Special Features

"The Blood of the Thing" (29 min.), an interview-based documentary produced for the 1998 DVD release; ; Audio Commentary by Producer Chiz Schultz, Actress Marlene Clark, Cinematographer James Hinton, and Composer Sam Waymon; ; Original Screenplay by Bill Gunn (DVD-ROM access only); ; Essay on the making of the film (and subsequent recutting) by David Walker and Tim Lucas (DVD-ROM access only); ; Photo Gallery

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Bill Gunn George
Candece Tarpley Girl in bar
Duane Jones Dr. Hess Green
Marlene Clark Ganja Meda
Sam Waymon Rev. Luther Williams
Enrico Fales Green's Son
Tara Fields Woman with Baby
Leonard Jackson Archie
Richard Harrow Dinner Guest
John Hoffmeister Jack Sargent
Betty Barney Singer In Church
Mabel King Queen Of Myrthia
Betsy Thurman Poetess
Tommy Lane Pimp

Technical Credits
Bill Gunn Director,Screenwriter
Scott Barrie Costumes/Costume Designer
E. James Hinton Cinematographer
James E. Hinton Cinematographer
Tom John Production Designer
Jack Jordan Producer
Victor Kanefsky Editor
Ron Love Sound/Sound Designer
Chris Schultz Producer
Sam Waymon Score Composer,Songwriter
Bret Wood Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Ganja and Hess
1. Part l: Victim [:09]
2. Hunger [:20]
3. Drunk [8:16]
4. Bloodbath [5:21]
5. Part ll: Survival [8:20]
6. Part lll: Letting Go [4:46]
7. Impolite Questions [11:29]
8. Wine Cellar [12:40]
9. Confrontation [6:41]
10. Dearly Beloved [5:00]
11. Dream [6:49]
12. Dinner Guest [5:43]
13. Alive [5:45]
14. Saved [5:42]
15. Shadow of the Cross [3:53]

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