"Ganja & Hess" Coming Out On Blu-Ray DVD In May

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by Sergio
March 6, 2012 9:49 PM
8 Comments
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As far as I'm concerned this is some major news for anyone who even claims to love black cinema. The news is that writer and director Bill Gunn's otherworldly and fascinating 1973 film Ganja & Hess is coming out on blu-ray DVD from Kino International on May 8th.

To call the film a vampire horror film is much too simplistic and yet it's hard to explain exactly what the film is about since it travels over various different genres and concepts.  Made during the height of the blaxploitation era, the film was Gunn's second feature after he made the film Stop for Warner Brothers in 1970 (a film the studio immediately shelved because it was reportedly scared by its interracial sex premise and has never been seen by anyone, at least to my knowledge).

Gunn bounced back from that setback by making G & H independently for $300,000. However the financiers, who thought they were getting another Blacula movie, where thrown for a loop when Gunn delivered to them his bizarre, mind bending film that was more visually reminiscent of the stark, cinema verite-style dramatic films of John Cassavetes.

The result was a film about a rich doctor infelcted with "vampirism", as it's caled in the film, who after stealing blood from health clinics and blood banks is reduced to killing people and draining them of their blood to survive. But it's much more than that, which according to one critic, addresses "any number of topics related to Black life in white America from drug addiction to servitude to capitalist propriety, bourgeous gluttony to spirital ideology, to the selling out of principles and kowtowing to the system, to "letting go and letting God".

The film indeed does all of that while mixing in African symbolism and rituals and a healthy dose of sexuality to a haunting effect.

Starring Duane Jones, Marlene Clark and Gunn himself in the a supporting role, the film was barely seen after a few theater openings.in New York and was recut and shortened to emphasize the sex and violence in the film under the title Blood Couple. It's only been in the past few years that the film has been restored to its original 113 minute version, and now to have the film coming out on blu-ray DVD, is something that I never thought would ever happen.

Gunn, unfortunately, never directed another film and spent the rest of his life until his death in 1989, acting in occasional roles such as a recurring role on The Cosby Show on NBC  in during the 1980's. But Ganja & Hess is and remains his most lasting, important and vibrant work that absolutely needs to be seen.

Here's a scene from the film:

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8 Comments

  • incrediblejeff | March 7, 2012 12:40 AMReply

    I saw this recently on TCM,and I loved the shit out of it.This looks like a buy.

  • HarveyDent322 | March 7, 2012 2:15 PM

    I think I saw the same airing on TCM as you did and it was definitely a film not easily forgotten.

  • Neziah | March 6, 2012 11:30 PMReply

    I will definitely be buying this obscure black masterpiece on Blu-ray, which remains one of my all-time favorites and a film that continues to fascinate every time I see even a single scene from it. It's so much deeper and profound than it gets credit for.

  • Brandon Harris | March 6, 2012 10:17 PMReply

    Thanks for mentioning this, but your piece is litered with factual inaccuracies. Bill Gunn did direct again; he made a fascinating experimental soap opera co-authored by Ishmael Reed that's called "Personal Problems". It was shot on video in the early eighties and is really quite something. BAM showed it for free a few springs back. "Stop!" was also screened in that same program --- http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/news/2010/03/bill-gunn-surfaces-at-bam/

  • Ava | March 7, 2012 4:36 PM

    I'm curious about "Personal Problems" as it sounds intriguing. Any ideas on how/where I can see it?

  • Sergio | March 6, 2012 10:25 PM

    I stand corrected. Did not know that he made another film and that Stop was actually seen somewhere. I was going by an interview with Marlene Clark done last year who claimed that Stop was never shown anywhere

  • Uncredited Rewrite | March 6, 2012 10:08 PMReply

    I got to see the full version a few years ago in one of my classes at U of Memphis and it was AMAZING!!!! To hear that it's coming out on Blu-ray makes me want to get a blu-ray player.

  • Laura | March 6, 2012 10:07 PMReply

    Will be getting that.

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