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Ganja & Hess: Kino Classics Remastered Edition [Blu-ray]


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Product Details

  • Actors: Duane Jones, Marlene Clark
  • Directors: Bill Gunn
  • Format: Original recording remastered, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Kino Lorber films
  • Release Date: May 8 2012
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B007HO38W4
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #81,801 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

Product Description

Dr. Hess Green (Night of the Living Dead’s Duane Jones), a wealthy and respected African-American anthropologist, is assigned a new assistant, an intelligent but unstable man named George Meda (Bill Gunn). One drunken night, George stabs Hess with a dagger from the ancient African tribe of Myrthia and then kills himself. The Myrthians were cursed with a thirst for human blood, and, by the time George's wife, Ganja (Marlene Clark), comes looking for him, Hess has developed a similar addiction to blood. Hess and Ganja fall in love, and they soon marry, but Hess infects his new bride with the Myrthian curse, which gives them eternal life, but at a terrible price. Brand new high definition transfer and restoration.

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A landmark in the history of African American cinema and one of the most important films of the 1970s, Ganja & Hess suffered a tortured fate that nearly resulted in its extinction. Briefly released in New York City in 1973, it was originally intended to be a "blaxploitation" horror thriller, but actor-director Bill Gunn (who died in 1989) created something much more complex and artistically expressive: a vampire film starring the late Duane Jones (earlier immortalized as the hero of Night of the Living Dead) that never mentions the word "vampire," addressing interwoven themes of addiction, passion, class distinction, faith, and the place of blacks in a dominant white society. Unfolding on a sensual level that is better experienced than explained, the film is equal parts dream, nightmare, and existential odyssey.

Not surprisingly, a film that so daringly defied convention was hard to market, and after its failed release it was drastically re-edited and eventually released to video under no fewer than seven different titles. Fortunately, a single print of Gunn's original version survived at New York's Museum of Modern Art, its reputation rising through revival screenings until Ganja & Hess achieved cult status as a "lost" milestone of its decade. The DVD release preserves Gunn's original cut in superb condition (considering the film's turbulent history) and includes engaging commentary by surviving cast and crew and an insightful essay reprinted from Video Watchdog magazine. And while Ganja & Hess is certainly not for all tastes, there's no denying that its fully restored release on DVD represents an historic occasion that any cinephile should celebrate. --Jeff Shannon --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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By A Customer on Jan. 23 2006
Format: DVD
Gunn's film is definitely rough around the edges but mainly due to budget limitations; overall it is impressively shot, very oblique and definitely won't satisfy many blaxploitation or vampire film fans (unless they're also into art movies, which many are...so hey, give it a try).
Imagine if Godard had fooled some producers into giving him the funds to make a black vampire exploitation flick and then made a surreal film-essay on class and race: then you might start to get an idea of just how unusual Ganja and Hess really is (and how far it is from the kitschy fun of Blacula).
Gunn was (is?) an author and playwright loosely connected to the Black Art 'Umbra' movement of the 60s.
BTW the end of the film includes some amazing, cinema verite footage of a gospel performance in a Harlem church that is simply wonderful (apparently Gunn's lead actor just walked in and they shot the scene without most of those in the church realizing it was for a film).
The upper class party sequence (how often do you see that in a black film?) also features a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo by the highly regarded author William Gaddis.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tim Hewitt on Jan. 3 2004
Format: DVD
I had heard of this movie for so many years, first as a kid reading "Famous Monsters," then as a film buff who kept hearing and reading tales of a complex and challenging vampire film that the distributors wouldn't release. I was thrilled when I got my hands on this DVD. I must say I've liked my share of oddball, offbeat films that few others seem to connect with, and it was with that spirit that I went into "Ganja and Hess." Sadly, despite what "art" some see in it, "Ganja and Hess" is a total mess and a waste of time. It's execution is amaturish and it's plot is hopelessly muddled (except of course if you view plot as something that just interferes with the artist making his point). You could call this the "Plan 9 From Outer Space" of blaxploitation films, but that would be an insult to "Plan 9" and suggest that "Ganja and Hess" is fun in a bad movie sort of way. It's not. It's just bad. I get the idea that Ben Gunn has some sort of point to make, but by the time he gets around to making it, you're so numb you just don't care anymore. If you're looking for a good vampire film from the "blaxploitation" period, "Blacula" is coming to DVD soon. And if you're looking for art, look elsewhere. You won't find it here.
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By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on May 1 2011
Format: DVD
Warning: "Ganja and Hess" is not your traditional, cliched vampire film. In fact, there's little about this haunting, confusing movie that IS in any way ordinary -- it's a fragmented, weird movie painted in a surreal palette. Director/writer/actor Bill Gun crams this strange movie with feverish visions and Christian symbolism, and while it frequently doesn't make sense it's still hypnotic.

Anthropologist Dr. Hess Green (Jones) had been ancient civilization of Myrthia, and upon returning home he hangs out with his unbalanced research assistant George. Then George goes insane, stabs him with an ancient bone knife, and then kills himself. But Hess doesn't die -- he immediately heals and develops a craving for blood.

Enter Ganja (Marlene Clark), George's beautiful wife. She and Hess fall madly in love and happily stays with him as the new mistress of his house... and then, of course, she finds out his dirty little secret, as well as her hubby's body. What is ahead for Ganja and Hess, and how long can a vampire live with his own conscience?

By the usual standards, "Ganja and Hess" is a failure -- there's no linear storytelling, no "hero" or "villain" characters, it doesn't explain anything, and I didn't know what was going on for pretty much the first half of the movie (seriously, who's the masked white guy?). Presumably that's why the idiot producers of this movie chopped it up and redistributed it as a wildly different movie.

But even though it's slow, choppy and often confusing, "Ganja and Hess" is absolutely hypnotic. Bill Gunn's hazy, feverish, slow-moving direction leaves you feeling like you're on a magnificent drug trip, drifting through the increasingly chaotic life of cultured "vampires.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 19 reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
The Rescue Of A Forgotten Classic June 22 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
An amazing lost work of African-American cinema. Filled with surreal and sensuous imagery, and a haunting performance by the late Duane Jones (Night Of The Living Dead), this may not be a film for everyone, but for the adventurous it will reward your time and patience. By virtue of rescuing this film from the obscurity in which its lived for so long, this DVD would rate 5 stars. But on top of a superb restoration and transfer, you also get an informative and impassioned commentary track, a gallery of beautiful stills, and a well-written analysis/history of the film. Taken together, this is a triumph of no small magnitude.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Literary, Smart, Divinely Executed Dec 12 2006
By Quentin Ergane - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Ganja and Hess is one of those movies that, if you have heard about, you have heard it discussed in the terms used by all the reviewers thus far. Throw all of that away. What this is... is art. The story is masterful, the acting nuanced and subtle, the over-arching story intriguing and the "twist" unexpected enough to leave your jaw hanging open as you understand what you just watched.

Many people call this film "confusing" -- however, it isn't confusing at all. It demands that the viewer make the same leap of faith we make when we read a text and simply "ingest" the action, the characters, and the narrative which is not immediately transparent. You are gonna have to work for it. Wait for it. Keep your eyes and ears open and really pay attention.

This movie does display some of the motifs of this era so there is full frontal male nudity, there are boobies of all body types, there is some stark reality, but this is one of those movies I would have loved to have watched as a young kid... but it is, perhaps, not for the youngun's.

James S. Hinton passed not too long ago and so it is really a joy to watch his cinematography... because it is true, this is an ESPECIALLY beautiful movie.

If you have watched too much Hollywood pap and have lost all sense of imagination, creativity... you should probably pass this one by because it is not giving itself to you the way in which you are used (i.e. it is not spoon-feeding you as much as leading you along a path, beckoning you to enter). However, if you remember and like some story with your entertainment, some meat with your movie, treasure thinking about the ways things happen: Watch this movie. You'll never thank yourself enough.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Peculiar, intriguing, confusing May 13 2002
By LGwriter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Bill Gunn's Ganja and Hess, originally released in 1973, has had a checkered career, to say the least. It was chopped, slashed, re-edited, and re-released no less than FIVE times throughout the 70s and 80s with five additional titles--very likely a record. Its original length of 110 minutes was sliced down to 78 minutes by Fima Novick in the original chopped version (Blood Couple), but as Tim Lucas points out in his terrific essay included in this DVD release, Novick introduced a few elements missing from the original that were actually helpful in clarifying the action.
This DVD release is the full director's cut and that is all to the good. Yet this version of the film is hard to follow unless you have some backstory. For example, without knowing that the main character, a black intellectual, Hess Green, somehow came across a Myrthian dagger and then accidentally (or is it on purpose?) was scratched or stabbed with it by his assistant, George Meda (played by the director himself)--AND that this dagger's touch can bring on vampirism--you would never know how Hess got to be the way he was. The scene in which this is supposedly revealed has such vague exposition that it leaves you scratching your head trying to figure out how things got from point A to point B.
Yet the film also boasts some brilliant dream imagery, some of the best in any film from the 70s, if not since then as well. These dream scenes give the film tremendous power.
But the dream scenes are juxtaposed with other scenes that seem somewhat too long for their purpose, or that don't really go anywhere. For example, in one scene, deleted from the chopped version, Hess talks to his son--who looks to be about 13 or 14--speaking in French to him, asking him about his studies at his private school. This is no doubt meant to bring out Hess' social and intellectual standing as a man of culture and refinement. But the son is never seen in the rest of the film and the scene seems completely isolated from the rest of the movie.
In another scene, Hess visits a white woman from a trashy part of town. It's obvious what the purpose of the visit is, and this is no doubt to bring out Hess' conflicted character. This does work to some extent, in that later on, he goes to church, supposedly for absolution based on his deeds, but there is too much fragmentation of purpose working in this film to make it cohere.
It's a fascinating failure. Ganja Meda, played by Marlene Clark, is another frustratingly developed character. She discovers her husband, George, is dead, but while suspicion definitely points to Hess as the perpetrator, she's walks around mad for a couple of minutes and then is lovey-dovey with him.
There are threads here that do fit together and make sense and cohere and there are just as many that don't. This is not an easily followed film, nor one that lacks intelligence. With greater coherence, it could have been a brilliant film. As it is, it is an intriguing, seriously flawed work that comes this close to being an amazing, resonant film.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
If the shadow of the cross is on our heart Aug. 31 2010
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Warning: "Ganja and Hess" is not your traditional, cliched vampire film. In fact, there's little about this haunting, confusing movie that IS in any way ordinary -- it's a fragmented, weird movie painted in a surreal palette. Director/writer/actor Bill Gun crams this strange movie with feverish visions and Christian symbolism, and while it frequently doesn't make sense it's still hypnotic.

Anthropologist Dr. Hess Green (Jones) had been ancient civilization of Myrthia, and upon returning home he hangs out with his unbalanced research assistant George. Then George goes insane, stabs him with an ancient bone knife, and then kills himself. But Hess doesn't die -- he immediately heals and develops a craving for blood.

Enter Ganja (Marlene Clark), George's beautiful wife. She and Hess fall madly in love and happily stays with him as the new mistress of his house... and then, of course, she finds out his dirty little secret, as well as her hubby's body. What is ahead for Ganja and Hess, and how long can a vampire live with his own conscience?

By the usual standards, "Ganja and Hess" is a failure -- there's no linear storytelling, no "hero" or "villain" characters, it doesn't explain anything, and I didn't know what was going on for pretty much the first half of the movie (seriously, who's the masked white guy?). Presumably that's why the idiot producers of this movie chopped it up and redistributed it as a wildly different movie.

But even though it's slow, choppy and often confusing, "Ganja and Hess" is absolutely hypnotic. Bill Gunn's hazy, feverish, slow-moving direction leaves you feeling like you're on a magnificent drug trip, drifting through the increasingly chaotic life of cultured "vampires." And the growing sense of horror in this movie is kept subtle, such as when Hess kills a young prostitute for her blood while her baby cries in his crib.

And at the same time, he deftly folds in fragments of African culture, powerful Christian belief (specifically, the blood of Christ vs. the bloodlust), and drug addiction (Hess's craving for blood is like a junkie's).

But the movie would collapse like a house of cards if it weren't for Duane Jones and Marlene Clark. Both of them give absolutely stunning performances that carry the film through from start to finish. Clark is brilliantly feisty and strong-willed as Ganja, and she's so beautiful that you can't look away; Jones gives a spellbinding performance as a man torn between his primal bloodlust and his conscience.

"Ganja and Hess" is not for people who are looking for another "Twilight" -- it's an arty, befuddling movie that still manages to suck you in. Pun intended.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Interesting "vampire" film. Nov. 17 2002
By Troy M. Ros - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
This is an odd movie to say the least. Dr. Hess Green (Duane Jones) acquires the "addiction" from a ceremony while travelling in Africa and becomes, basically, a vampire. Not your standard fictional vampire mind you, but someone who has a hunger for blood and cannot die. After that, all similarities with your standard vampire end. He walks in the daylight, sleeps in a bed, goes to church and does not have fangs. He lives on a large estate and has a butler and chauffeur who take care of him. There is a bit of narration from the butler who knows about the doctor's affliction, but it is mostly to get us up to speed at the beginning of the film. A ways into the film Ganja (Marlene Clark) comes to stay with Dr. Hess. She finds evidence of strange goings on and tells Hess an interesting story from her childhood. Somehow this leads to their getting married and him performing the ceremony on her to give her the same affliction he has.
There are parts of the film that have a lot of dialog and then other parts that have very little, if any. There are also some extended scenes from a gospel singing church that look more like a documentary than a fictional vampire movie. Flashback scenes are interspersed with dream sequences and at times it is difficult to tell if it is present reality or a dream. There are a few violent scenes where the doctor feeds including one at a whorehouse where he somewhat violently kills his victim and laps up the blood that has spilled. In another scene he robs a medical clinic, walking away with their supply of blood in his leather satchel.
I can't say that this is a great movie, but it is somewhat entertaining, if not a little slow. When the film was first screened the producers were disappointed that it was not a traditional "blaxpoitation" film and cut it down from 110 minutes to 78 minutes. It bombed and was soon forgotten.
All Day Entertainment released the fully restored dvd to much fanfare from fans of the movie back in 1998 and it is still in release. There is an essay from Tim Lucas and and a commentary from producer Chiz Schultz, actress Marlene Clark, cinematographer James Hinton and soundtrack composer Sam Waymon. The full retail price is [X] and I am certainly glad I rented it from Netflix instead of buying it, but some collectors might consider it for their collection, mostly those intereseted in really offbeat, independent vampire films, or collectors of interesting black cinema (blaxploitation it is not).

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