‘Some marriages are made in Heaven, others are made in Hell!’
Ganja & Hess – also released as Blood Couple and Double Possession – is a 1973 American horror film written and directed by Bill Gunn. It stars Duane Jones, Marlene Clark and Leonard Jackson.
Archeologist Dr. Hess Green (Jones) becomes a vampire after being stabbed by his intelligent, but unstable, assistant (Gunn) with an ancient cursed dagger. Green falls in love with his assistant’s widow, Ganja (Clark), who learns Green’s dark secret…
Ganja and Hess had a troubled release, being distributed under various titles such as Blood Couple and Double Possession, each aiming to capitalise on exploitable elements – blaxploitation, horror and exorcism. Director Gunn added to the confusion by rewriting the script at a very late stage to reduce the horror angle. The difficulty in pigeonholing the film has contributed to its emergence as a cult item.
This film contains the only other lead role for Duane Jones, best known for starring in George A. Romero’s 1968 seminal horror classic Night of the Living Dead (although he appeared in bit-parts in other movies).
Ganja & Hess is very much of its time, and ultimately, how much you will relate to the film will probably depend on how much you like free-form early Seventies American indie cinema.
The film is a fascinating example of the strange collision of experimental filmmaking and the mainstream that took place at the time – an art house genre piece before such things were commonplace. It’s intriguing, memorable and unique, and for that alone is worth a look.
David Flint, HORRORPEDIA
“What we end up with is a film that’s far more personally ambitious and ambiguous than a vampire movie, an art film with all the accompanying pretensions that that classification suggests. It has elements of horror, but the fragmented approach to story and heavy subtext—the blood lust being a metaphor for addiction, for instance—make it seem more suited to a study than a wintry night’s viewing.” Tom Becker, DVD Verdict
“There are times when the beauty of the film is haunting, to be sure. But too often, it is overly ponderous and heavy handed.” Mikel J Koven, Blaxploitation Films
“There are films that are fun to watch; Ganja & Hess compels you to watch. There are films that ask more questions than they answer; Ganja & Hess answers zero questions, nor does it aim to. But maybe that’s why it lingers in the brain.” April Swartz, Badass Digest
Main cast and characters:
- Marlene Clark as Ganja Meda – Beware! The Blob; The Beast Must Die; Black Mamba
- Duane Jones as Dr. Hess Green – Night of the Living Dead; To Die For; Fright House
- Bill Gunn as George Meda
- Sam Waymon as Rev. Luther Williams
- Leonard Jackson as Archie – Basket Case 2
- Candece Tarpley as Girl in Bar
- Richard Harrow as Dinner Guest
- John Hoffmeister as Jack Sargent
- Betty Barney as Singer in Church
- Mabel King as Queen of Myrthia – Dead Men Don’t Die; Tales from the Darkside