Friday, March 5, 2010
Ganja & Hess(1973)
To say that Ganja and Hess is a polarizing film is a huge understatement! It's one of those films that I have heard and read about for years, but never had the opportunity to see. I thought that it was gonna be your typical "blacksploitation-horror" film, maybe along the lines of Scream, Blacula, Scream. What I got was a black version of an art-house/mind fuck film! This film is beautifully shot, very slow in places, and pretty damned confusing. Not to say that it's not enjoyable, because you can't look away in fear of missing what comes next.
The confusing storyline, from what I can tell, is about a Dr. Hess, who is stabbed by an ancient bone, formed into a knife of sorts. This bone has some sort of power that turns it's victims into vampires. These are not typical vampires, as all of the victims killed in this film, are stabbed, then bled out, and the blood is lapped up off the floor by the vampire. Dr. Hess meets the mysterious and beautiful Ganja, and he marries her and transforms her into a vampire as well. Everything else that happens seems like the effects of an LSD trip or something. I will say that the director came up with a different way of disposing of vampires, which Dr. Hess uses to dispatch himself. Other than that, I can't really "describe" what this film contains, or is about. You will know if this kinda thing interests you, and if so, you should seek it out.
From what I have read and heard, Bill Gunn, the director, was hired to make a typical Blacksploitation film. When he turned this film in, the producers were furious, and cut the film down substantially, and retitled it Black Evil, and later Blood Couple. The new DVD by Image Entertainment is the first time that it has ever been released uncut and the way that Mr. Gunn intended it. There has been lots of speculation about the metaphoric intentions of this film. It has been widely guessed that the film itself, is one big metaphor for slavery. Gunn said that once that blacks were freed from slavery, they once again enslaved themselves with crime and drugs. The character names could be a reflection of that, Ganja, of course, means Marijuana, and Hess is a slang word for Hash. I am sure that this was not a popular viewpoint with the black audiences that thought they were seeing a schlocky horror B-movie. If I had to compare it to anything, I would say that it has a lot in common with the films of Andy Warhol, and his acolytes(Paul Morrissey), and maybe the earlier films of David Lynch, in particular Eraserhead. Last night was my first viewing of the film, and I still don't know what to think of it, but it hasn't left my mind yet, and that is the kind of film that interests me. I am hoping that further viewings will unlock more mysteries about this odd little film.