01 September 2014

Ganja & Hess (1973)
113 min.
Directed by Bill Gunn.
With Duane Jones, Marlene Clark, Bill Gunn, Sam Waymon, Leonard Jackson, Mabel King, Richard Harrow.
A really offbeat black vampire film.

When his research assistant George stabs him with an ancient dagger, archaeologist Hess Green (Jones, from 1968's Night of the Living Dead) becomes a blood-addicted vampire.

After George commits suicide, his beautiful & sharp-tongued wife Ganja (Clark) comes looking for her wayward husband - and finds only the brooding Hess.

The two dig each other, and it's not long before Hess decides to make Ganja his partner in all things: love, marriage...and blood drinking!

Neither blaxploitation nor typical genre horror, this 1973 oddity is a low budget attempt at transgressive filmmaking on all levels: structurally, thematically, presentationally.

But it's an experiment which fails.

Director Gunn's nonlinear narrative and forced surrealism don't work because Ganja rarely bothers to dip into the mundane world of reality or even logic; as such, the viewer isn't given a chance to gain even the most basic point of reference.

The real casualty becomes the dreamlike dances of Ganja, which are reduced to nothing more than a detached rendering of floating images and soulless sounds.

The plus side? Clark delivers a terrific performance as Ganja, and there are one or two moments of focused terror, such as the gritty slaying of a whore and her pimp.

Aka Blood Couple.

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