Ganja & Hess (1973)

Genres - Drama, Horror, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Urban Drama, Addiction Drama, Blaxploitation, Melodrama, Psychological Drama, Supernatural Horror  |   Release Date - Apr 20, 1973 (USA)  |   Run Time - 112 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Synopsis by Mark Deming

A scientist stricken with an insatiable hunger for blood dominates this strikingly atmospheric drama. Dr. Hess Green (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. Actor, playwright, and novelist Bill Gunn was hired to write and direct a low-budget black vampire movie, but instead he delivered a thoughtful, impressionistic film that uses addiction to blood as a metaphor for African-American cultural and spiritual identity (and never once uses the word "vampire"). Ganja and Hess proved too deliberately paced and self-consciously surreal for the producers, who chopped it to 83 minutes, removed Sam Waymon's superb musical score, and retitled it Blood Couple. This mangled version was for many years the only one available, and it appeared under six different titles on home video before Bill Gunn's original version was restored for DVD release in 1998.



African-American, bloodsucker, vampire, anthropology, civilization, culture [social culture], curse, professor, America, blood, couple, knife, research, stabbing, parasite, virus, ancient