Ganja & Hess (1973)

USA, 1972
110m
35mm film, colour, 1.85:1
mono, English

An American horror film directed by Bill Gunn.

Plot Summary

Archaeologist Dr Hess Green working on a dig uncovering the ancient civilization of Myrthia is attacked by his research assistant who then commits suicide. Hess recovers, but finds that he’s been turned into a vampire with an uncontrollable thirst for blood. He teams up with his former assistant’s wife, Ganja and they fall in love – but will Ganja be ready for the truth about what Hess has become?

Credits

Crew
Directed by: Bill Gunn
© MCMLXXIII [1973] [company not given]
Production Companies: A Kelly-Jordan Enterprises, Inc. production. Released by Kelly-Jordan Enterprises, Inc.
Executive Producers: Jack Jordan, Quentin Kelly
Produced by: Chiz Schultz
Written by: Bill Gunn
Director of Photography: James E. Hinton
Editor: Victor Kanefsky
Music by: Sam Waymon
Sound: Ron Love
Costumes Designed by: Scott Barrie
Make-up: Scott Cunningham
Hair Stylist: Annie De Mille
Production Designer: Tom H. John

Cast
Duane Jones (Dr Hess Green)
Marlene Clark (Ganja Meda)
Bill Gunn (George Meda)
Sam Waymon (Rev. Luther Williams)
Leonard Jackson (Archie)
Candece Tarpley (girl in bar)
Richard Harrow (dinner guest)
John Hoffmeister (Jack)
Betty Barney (singer in church)
Mabel King (Queen of Myrthia)
Betsy Thurman (poetess)
Enrico Fales (Dr Green’s son)
Tommy Lane (pimp)
Tara Fields (woman with baby)
the congregation of Evangel Revivaltime Church

Alternative Titles

Black Evil
Black Vampire
Blackout: The Moment of Terror
Blood Couple
Double Possession
Vampires of Harlem

Press

1973
Variety 18 April 1973 pp.30, 32
Executive producers Quentin Kelly and Jack Jordan are supposed to have gone looking for a talent to bring “a new and fresh approach” to black films but it is apparent, after Ganja and Hess that actor-playwright-novelist-screenwriter-director Bill Gunn is not their man. Most of the faults of this would-be arty approach to the horror film must lie with Gunn, and they are many. What might have been a “different” version of the vampire story winds up as, basically, a horror film in which most of the principals spend more time out of their clothing than in them. The nudity – frontal, backward and sideways – is so much an element of the film that one tends to think of it as a sex film with blood. Some very handsome people are given such ridiculous roles that laughter in the wrong place is their due. […] Marlene Clark, a stunningly beautiful girl, almost makes Ganja believable, but Duane Jones’ Hess is a dour, expressionless clod. Leonard Jackson as Hess’s manservant attempts to introduce a bit of humor but otherwise it’s a dulleroo. Technical aspects are fair. Film was shot on location at Croton-on-Hudson, New York, and the Brooklyn Museum. Its future is uncertain as the initial handling is aimed at the art theatre market, with ads and promotion so slanted. It will probably wind up in the sock ’em and shock ’em area eventually with emphasis on the gore and nudity. – from a review by Robe.

Links

Remake
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014)

References

Periodicals

  • Black American Literature Forum vol.25 no.2 (Summer 1991) p.307 – article (Ganja and Hess: Vampires, Sex, and Addictions by Manthia Diawara and Phyllis R. Klotman)
  • Castle of Frankenstein no.20 p.45
  • Cinefantastique vol.5 no.1 (Spring 1976) p.30 – review
  • Cinema Journal vol.39 no.2 (2002) pp.31-50 – article (Blaxploitation Horror Films: Generic Reappropriation or Reinscription by Harry M. Benshoff)
  • Fangoria no.256 (September 2006) p.62 – illustrated DVD review (DVD Dungeon: DVD of the Month by Chris Poggiali)
  • Films and Filming no.410 (November/December 1988) p.22 – credits, review
  • Interview no.32 (May 1973) p.38 – review
  • Positif no.154 (September 1973) p.76 – review
  • Variety 18 April 1973 pp.30, 32 – credits, synopsis, review (by Robe)
  • Weng’s Chop no.9 (August 2016) pp.8-9 – illustrated article (Rhythm & blues & ghouls: Blacula and the blaxploitation horror sub-genre by Troy Howarth; 30-32 – illustrated review (Da sweet ganja of Jesus: The resurrection of the movie that never died by Tony Strauss)

Books

  • 100 American Horror Films by Barry Keith Grant pp.83-84
  • The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror by Phil Hardy (ed.) pp.276-277
  • Cinematic Vampires by John L. Flynn pp.184
  • Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again by John Stanley p.48 – credits, review
  • English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby p.250
  • Hoffman’s Guide to SF, Horror and Fantasy Movies 1991-1992 p.149 – credits, review
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films II by Donald C. Willis p.148 – credits
  • Horror Films of the 1970s by John Kenneth Muir pp.248-251 – credits, synopsis, review
  • The Illustrated Vampire Movie Guide by Stephen Jones p.75 – credits, review
  • Nightmare USA by Stephen Thrower p.516 – note
  • Reference Guide to Fantastic Films by Walt Lee p.156 – credits
  • Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990 by Brian Albright p.255
  • Trashfiend: Disposable Horror Fare of the 1960s & 1970s Volume One by Scott Stine pp.85-89 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
  • Vampire Films of the 1970s: Dracula to Blacula and Every Fang Between by Gary A. Smith pp.162-163; 210 – review; credits