Ganja & Hess; The Notes Edition

Title: Ganja + Hess
Director(s): Bill Gunn
Year: 1973
Producer(s): Chiz Schultz

Starring: Duane Jones, Marlene Clark and Bill Gunn

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There are 3 Parts:
Victim, Survival, Live

– Stabbed 3x in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost
– References to black culture/black church culture

–  Our introduction to Hess (Jones) and George (Gunn) who is clearly unstable. Hess is an anthropologist who is researching “blood drinkers” of the Mrythians
– Hess is standing in front of a noose. There’s a noose… *speechless at this point*
– Nina Simone album sighting
– Hess is drugged, something in his drink, has dreams and delusions of a stranger (woman, queen of the Mrythians)
– George kills himself AFTER stabbing Hess 3x with ancient dagger
– George quotes “I was a victim, I was a murderer” “to the black male children” “nameless as a flower”
– Oh… he really just passed on his vampirism to Hess. And now Hess is drinking George’s blood off the bathroom floor.
– Lots of call backs to religion, the church, baptism
– A more serious take on vampire culture, grounded in reality with black culture thrown in

– Boy there’s a lot of nudity. But it’s… sensual, it’s not perverted in ANY way.
– This is different than typical blaxploitation
– Everything looks lush and expensive


– Ganja’s arrival (Clark), she’s gorgeous, a little… self entitled
– Gains a relationship with Hess
– George’s body is found in a freezer? Ugh.
– Hess is definitely fond of sex workers
– “I was a disease” Ganja’s own words about herself and the lack of bond with her mother… considers herself an “accident” baby
– Ganja and Hess GET MARRIED!
– Did he kill her? Is this a dream? He killed her? There’s blood
– Turns out it was a dream but then she really did get stabbed 3x with the dagger
– “Drink this in remembrance of me” aka communion, drinking the “blood” of Christ
– The visuals of a male victim covered in blood after sex with Ganja but he’s dead now too
– There’s a mention of reading a book about survival, “the cross against our hearts” AGAIN MORE RELIGIOUS REFERENCE
– Hess seems disillusioned by the last 20 minutes of the film. I think it’s guilt, loneliness, fear, lack of control and he does come into contact with a cross after attending a Sunday service at church
– Took his own life
– Poor Ganja, she’s lost 2 men
– The male victim who was killed earlier is now alive?? And is he a vampire now too?
– So basically the cycle continues on

Music and sound editing… 
Will Ganja take her own life later? It seems to be a pattern (George, Hess)
The camera angles were really great, color use was very luxe/lush looking too

MY THOUGHTS: The film seemed to showcase black people and black culture as is. No mocking, no downgrading, very much showing that we are just as human as everyone else. I appreciate seeing that. And like I said before, seeing this take on the  topic was very refreshing. It’s grounded in reality, we are seeing these victims struggle with what has happened to them, emotionally, mentally and physically. And deep down, spiritually. The oppression, African culture, modern black culture, the black church and what that represents, Gunn himself said he accepted this film as a way to represent vampirism for addiction and that shows. The addiction process of getting one person hooked on, passing it on, that cycle never ending and if it does end, it ends in heartache. I mean, Hess was on the ground of the bathroom drinking blood and you can think of it as craving a drug and getting down to consume it to fulfill that high.

This film is available on Shudder.

Ganja & Hess gets 4 out of 5.

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