Ganja & Hess

The art­house Blac­ula

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - DVD & Blu-Ray -

Re­lease Date: 26 Jan­uary

1973 | 18 | Dual- for­mat Blu- ray & DVD Direc­tor: Bill Gunn Cast: Duane Jones, Mar­lene Clark, Bill Gunn, Sam Way­mon

Thanks to its

African- Amer­i­can cast and crew and use of vam­pirism, Ganja & Hess is of­ten brack­eted with blax­ploita­tion hor­rors. But writer/ direc­tor Bill Gunn’s cult cu­rio has none of the camp ap­peal of Blac­ula. This is an avowedly avant- garde ef­fort, with all the at­ten­dant idio­syn­cra­sies and frus­tra­tions that im­plies.

Night Of The Living Dead’s Duane Jones is Dr Hess Green, a dap­per, mon­eyed an­thro­pol­o­gist who’s cursed with a taste for blood when his new as­sis­tant stabs him with an an­cient cer­e­mo­nial dag­ger. Af­ter said as­sis­tant com­mits sui­cide, his widow Ganja comes look­ing – and very soon hooks up with Hess.

Lan­guid pac­ing, opaque edit­ing strate­gies, a weirdly dif­fi­dent cen­tral per­for­mance, and Gunn’s to­tal lack of in­ter­est in the genre thrills he was hired to pro­vide test your pa­tience. At times it’s hard to tell whether it’s the work of a to­tal in­com­pe­tent or a Go­dar­d­ian provo­ca­teur. Pos­si­bly both.

But there are mo­ments that re­ward your ef­fort: a strik­ing im­age here; a po­etic mono­logue there. And the score, which takes African chant­ing and treats it with echo to lend it a shim­mer­ing psy­che­delic res­o­nance, is a tri­umph.

Com­men­tary by Mar­lene Clark ( Ganja), the cine­matog­ra­pher, the com­poser and a pro­ducer; 29 min­utes of talk­ing heads; the screen­play; a book­let. Be warned: the film’s been pieced to­gether from var­i­ous prints, and of­ten looks pretty ropey. Ian Ber­ri­man Spike Lee’s lat­est film, Da Sweet Blood Of Je­sus, is a re­make of Ganja & Hess. It’s due for re­lease on 13 Fe­bru­ary.

“Game of Pic­tionary?”

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