Tuesday, September 25, 2012


KINO - Blu Ray

This misunderstood art film is really very stylish and interesting. Thought to be a simple blaxploitation film for years, this is much more of a weird treatise on religion, myth, medicine and immortality. Directed by homosexual director BILL GUNN, this is also the last film to feature the late DUANE JONES of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD fame. 

Duane Jones plays Dr. Hess Greene a man who holds man degrees in various person bound arts. Even before the first image we are explained that Dr. Hess was stabbed by a special dagger three times one for The Father, one for The Son and one for The Holy Ghost. Dr. Hess has become a blood drinker, a vampire. His closest friend is fellow researcher, the suicidal George (played by director Gunn). George is tormented by the intricacies of life and death and teeters constantly on the edge. He is not aware of his friends new needs.

The first section of the film is titled THE VICTIM and deals with these two men's complex lives and relationship. It sets up Dr. Hess as a victim of his circumstances. After this each section of the film is numbered and titled accordingly. 

GANJA and HESS is really a movie about moments. As a whole I can see why the film was edited down from 113 minutes to a probably incomprehensible 78 min. There are lots of stretches that feel like they are going nowhere. Lots of conversations and things like language (bad language specifically) or how to hide dope rectally. There is also a LOT of nudity and sensuality that probably didn't go over well in the art crowd or even the exploitation crowd. Scenes like director Gunn taking a bath (and brushing his teeth in the water) that goes on a long time with his schlong in plain site.

But ultimately the film is about Hess, and Jones intense portrayal of the character. He is not a monster, but a man afflicted and Jones pulls out the stops to bring you into his plight. The film could almost be seen as a venereal disease or AIDS allegory (except AIDS hadn't reared its ugly head yet, and wouldn't for a decade or so). It is also about letting your freak flag fly. To not accept guilt for living a particular lifestyle or for having different needs. Dialogue throughout the film pertains to this. Such as

"Everybody is some kind of freak. Everyone I know is into something." - Ganja

" The only perversions that can be comfortably condemned are the perversions of others. I will persist and survive without God's or society's sanctions. I will not be tortured and I will not be guilty."
- Dr. Hess

Those are words to live by if I ever saw them. One should never allow themselves to feel guilty for their desires and needs.

More art film than horror film, there is still plenty of “frission” to be had from this quirky, extremely personal vision of modern horror.

I watched this on Blu Ray and it looks very interesting. Mastered from surviving 35mm prints as the vault negatives were the cut version it retains the super grainy feel and look of the era it was shot in. Clearly made for very little money all the flaws show up with added clarity in this version. But it does not distract from the overall power and ingenuity the film displays. 

Review © Andew Copp

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