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Double Bill: Bill Gunn
330 Ratings

Ganja & Hess

Directed by Bill Gunn
United States, 1973
Horror, Drama, Fantasy
  • English
  • English
Double Bill: Bill Gunn


Anthropologist Hess Green is stabbed with an ancient dagger by his unstable assistant, bestowing immortality and the curse of an unquenchable thirst for blood upon him. When the assistant’s wife, Ganja, comes searching for her missing husband, she and Hess form an unexpected partnership.

Our take

Kicking off our double feature of masterpieces by director Bill Gunn is an impossible-to-define mix of midnight horror, lyrical imagery, and heartfelt eloquence. A passionate act of provocation, Gunn challenged the blaxploitation genre with this complex tale of addiction and Black high society.

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Ganja and Hess’s thematic discord is matched by its dizzyingly diverse form.
October 25, 2013
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Ganja & Hess, which has been retroactively, circumstantially cast as a berserk dash toward career suicide on Gunn’s part, is so singular, so opaque, that it doesn’t even have the draw of commerce-friendly exoticism. If Shaft is Barry White and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song is the Sex Pistols, then Ganja & Hess is John Cage.
May 08, 2012
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Gunn’s purest expression was 1973’s Ganja & Hess. Hired to crank out a Blacula knock-off (with a drug-joke title), Gunn instead wrote a surreal love triangle among black sophisticates, devoid of sex-machine phoniness, and directed it in a muttered, disorienting style, with a strange brew of Afro-Euro symbolism.
May 31, 2010
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