Dr. Hess Green is stabbed three times by a mystical dagger and becomes a different kind of vampire. Different is an understatement with this experimental dream of a movie. Director Bill Gunn was tasked with delivering his version of Blackula. Instead he made an art film in the guise of horror. Despite an award at the Cannes Film Festival, the original cut was butchered down to a more commercial version, and faded into cinema history. Thankfully MoMA and Kino Lorber were able to restore the original version. They didn’t do the drastic restoration job that we’re used to these days either. The film probably looks similar to when it was first shown, warts and all. That was a wise choice, as polishing Ganja & Hess would have taken away from all the elements that make it special.
This movie will not be to everyone’s taste. It challenges your attention span at times, and then challenges your sense of decency. That’s why I love it. Additionally you get to see Duane Jones (Night of the Living Dead) in his very best screen performance. That should be reason enough to see this, but the script is great, and the music is excellent as well. Watch with patience and you might just appreciate it as much as I do.
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