Ganja & Hess (1973)

GANJA & HESS (1973)
aka Blood Couple

Article 3676 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-23-2011
Posting Date: 9-7-2011
Directed by Bill Gunn
Featuring Marlene Clark, Duane Jones, Bill Gunn
Country: USA
What it is: Art movie masquerading as blaxploitation horror

An archaeologist becomes a vampire after having been stabbed with a ceremonial knife. He tries to cope with his affliction and finds himself involved with the wife of his now-dead assailant.

It features the lead actor from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and is a movie about a black vampire made in the same era as BLACULA. But anyone walking into this one expecting the usual blaxploitation horror vibe will be severely disappointed. Granted, I can’t speak about the 78-minute edit, which reportedly comes across as almost a completely different movie; I opted to watch the complete 110 minute version. There is much to admire here; the acting is strong, the use of sound and music is truly creative, and it adds some interesting wrinkles to vampire mythology (incidentally, the word “vampire” is never used once during the movie). Yet, it remains an art film, and a fairly long one; there is a lot of talk, and not all of it is interesting enough to hold the attention. There are scenes that are confusing, and other scenes that go on too long; despite the positive qualities of this movie, I often found myself quite bored. It is also a movie steeped in black culture, and as such, I may simply not be one of its intended audience. Some people consider it a masterpiece; others think it’s awful. Me, I find it unique, but not quite satisfying overall, though it may be one of those movies that requires more than a single viewing.

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