“Everybody’s some kind of freak!”
After a Black anthropologist (Duane Jones) is stabbed by his suicidal assistant (Bill Gunn), he becomes a vampire, eventually seducing Gunn’s widow (Marlene Clark).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- African Americans
- Horror Films
Writer-director-actor Bill Gunn was expected to make a follow-up vampire flick akin to the phenomenally popular blaxploitation film Blacula (1972), but instead made this highly atmospheric experimental film which requires some analysis (and likely a re-watching) to fully parse. As noted by Stuart Galbraith in his review for DVD Talk, “There’s practically nothing to compare Ganja & Hess to in either all of black cinema or the horror genre, and because the film is very much its own animal, audiences often don’t quite know what to make of it.” Indeed, Ganja and Hess was notoriously re-cut and re-distributed numerous times under different titles in an attempt to make it more appealing, but is thankfully now available once again in Gunn’s original vision — which seems entirely appropriate for such an experimental film. While it’s not for all tastes and moves too slowly at times, it’s recommended for one-time viewing given its unique place in Black cinema.
Note: Fans of Night of the Living Dead (1968) will likely be thrilled to see its star, Duane Jones, on-screen again in one of his very few movie roles.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fine performances by the three leads
- Atmospheric cinematography by James E. Hinton
- Sam L. Waymon’s score
Yes, once, as an unusual cult movie and for its historical significance.
- Cult Movie
- Historically Relevant