Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ganja & Hess


I meant to post this before it aired last Friday on Turner Classic Movies -- totally fell asleep. At first glance, Ganja & Hess appears to be a run-of-the-mill blaxploitation horror flick, but it has much more in common with films like The Hunger and Thirst. Made for $350,000, it was initially conceived in an attempt to cash in on the success of Blacula. However, writer/director Bill Gunn had other ideas...

Night of the Living Dead's Duane Jones stars as Dr. Hess Green, an anthropologist studying an ancient African civilization known as the Myrthia. Hess' wackjob unstable assistant George (Bill Gunn) stabs him to death with a sacrificial dagger, but he soon awakens unscathed and now immortal. The only drawback being an insatiable thirst for blood -- I hate when that happens. When George's estranged wife Ganja (Marlene Clark) shows up, sparks fly, and she soon becomes Mrs. Bloodsucker.


This is usually the part where I embed the trailer, but I have yet to find one. The random clips on youtube aren't especially helpful. I've never seen a film with so many alternate titles: Blood Couple, Double Possession, Black Vampire, Black Evil, Blackout: The Moment of Terror, and Vampires of Harlem.

Ganja & Hess is an artsy film that uses vampirism as metaphor for addiction. No fangs, aversion to sunlight, changing into bats, coffins, running away from crosses, etc. -- which is probably one of the reasons it was never a commercial success. Gunn does some unusual stuff with the storytelling, like presenting a key piece of exposition as a Gospel song. Still, it's a fascinating and peculiar story about a really, really dysfunctional couple. If you're interested in something off the beaten path, look no further...

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