After being stabbed with an ancient, germ-infested knife, a doctor's assistant finds himself with an insatiable desire for blood.After being stabbed with an ancient, germ-infested knife, a doctor's assistant finds himself with an insatiable desire for blood.After being stabbed with an ancient, germ-infested knife, a doctor's assistant finds himself with an insatiable desire for blood.
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Dr. Hess Green (Duane Jones) is stabbed with an ancient dagger, which transforms him into a vampire always in need of blood. After the suicide of his assistant, the man's wife Ganja (Marlene Clark) comes to the home and soon she and Hess have a strange relationship building. Legend has it that director Bill Gunn was hired to turn in a blaxploitation film like BLACULA but instead he came back to the producers with this bizarre, surreal art-house film and it pretty much destroyed his career. The studio cut the film down to 78-minutes to try and make it sell-able but I was able to see the uncut 110-minute version. This is a hard film to judge because there's no question that it comes up well short of being a good movie but at the same time you really have to respect Gunn for trying to do something artistic and not just deliver some sort of drive-in trash that would have played at four in the morning. Of course, by doing a picture like this its appeal is going to be very limited but even though the flaws I think there's quite a bit of stuff to enjoy here. There's no question that Gunn has created a wonderfully dark atmosphere. This can be seen from the opening shots to the closing one. Gunn, who also wrote the screenplay, wants to make sure you never fully understand what's going on. Bits of dialogue flow that seem to have nothing to do with the film. We get scenes shot so strangely that you're more focused on how they were shot instead of what's going on. We even get a few additional characters that pop into the story and other strange bits like a wedding scene and a drawn out sequence inside a church. If you're expecting blood and horror elements you're going to be disappointed because both of those things are very small and don't have much of an impact on the film. The visual look is something very impressive as the cinematography really adds to the atmosphere. The way the film is edited is another major plus. Then we have the two lead performances. It's somewhat shocking to see that this was Jones first film since the release of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD five years earlier. I always wondered if his wonderful performance in Romero's classic was just a fluke but after seeing this film it obviously wasn't and it's a real shame that he didn't appear in more movies. Jones is extremely good in the part of the haunted doctor and it's one of those performances that requires very little dialogue. You can tell what emotions the doctor is going through just by looking into the eyes of Jones. I was really surprised at how well he could play this haunted soul but he pulls it off. Clark is also extremely good in her part able to play the overbearing witch but also the alternate moments of her character. GANJA & HESS is a really odd little movie and it's not going to appeal to most but if you enjoy weird and different bits of work then you might find it interesting.
- Jan 1, 2012