Cool, Classic and Collectible: 'Ganja & Hess' Restored and Remastered
Plus Hollis Frampton, 3D J-Horror, and more
"Ganja & Hess" (Kino) is one of the most unusual vampire films ever made, an art film stirred through with an anthropological strain and Afro-European symbolism, originally released under the guise of a blaxploitation shocker. "Night of the Living Dead" star Duane Jones plays an anthropologist who is infected by a vampiric contagion from the blade of an ancient African knife and tries to hide his secret when he falls in love with the beautiful widow (Marlene Clark) of his research assistant (director Bill Gunn).
The drama of addiction, culture clash, and moral redemption won a standing ovation when it screened during Critics' Week at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, but virtually disappeared after it was briefly released in a butchered edition. The portrait of erudite, cultured black professionals didn't fit the stereotypes of blaxploitation thrillers, no matter how drastically it was re-edited, while audiences more receptive to its sophisticated approach were turned off by the film's crude promotional campaign (it was renamed "Black Vampire" and "Blood Couple" by the distributor). This version is mastered from the 35mm negative, restored by The Museum of Modern Art with support from The Film Foundation.
On Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary by producer Chiz Schultz, actress Marlene Clark, cinematographer James Hinton, and composer Sam Waymon (originally recorded for the 1998 DVD release by All Day Entertainment, now out of print), the 29-minute interview featurette "The Blood of the Thing" (also from the All Day Release), and a still gallery. The original screenplay and a long essay on the film by David Walker and Tim Lucas are accessible via BD-ROM / DVD-ROM.
"A Hollis Frampton Odyssey" (Criterion) collects twenty-four short films made by the avant-garde filmmaker between 1966 to 1979. A companion volume to Criterion's "By Brakhage: An Anthology" collection, this is not going to appeal to your average film buff. These aren't narratives, they are closer to painting or sculpture or even archirtecture rendered on 16mm film, experiments and explorations in the expressive qualities of light and shape and movement. Read Jaime N. Christley at Slant Magazine for a thoughtful, thorough review.
Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary and remarks by filmmaker Hollis Frampton (from archival recordings; he died in 1984), a 20-minute video interview excerpt with the filmmaker recorded in 1978, the 1968 performance piece "A Lecture" (with fellow filmmaker Michael Snow), and images from his art series "By Any Other Name." The accompanying booklet features an introduction by film critic Ed Halter and essays and capsules on the films by Frampton scholars Ken Eisenstein, Bruce Jenkins, and Michael Zryd
"Shock Labyrinth 3D" (Well Go), the 3D debut of J-horror auteur Takashi Shimizu (director of both the Japanese "Ju-On" films and the American remakes), is based on a real-life theme park attraction (just like an American film!). In this film, a group of teens visit the maze called The Horror Hospital and then end up in a nightmarish version of said attraction where the fake horrors become real. On DVD and a combo pack with Blu-ray 3D and 2D and DVD versions. All editions include interviews and a featurette. Japanese with English subtitles. The 3D version requires a full HD 3D TV, compatible 3D glasses, and a Blu-ray 3D player.
"The One That Got Away" (VCI) stars Hardy Kruger as Franz Von Werra, the only German prisoner-of-war in Britain to escape and return to Germany. Roy Ward Baker directs the rare World War II escape thriller with a German hero. DVD only.
"To Who It May Concern: Ka Shen's Journey" (Redwind Production) investigates the life and legacy of Nancy Kwan, the Hong Kong-born actress who became a star in the early sixties with "The World of Suzie Wong" and "Flower Drum Song." Brian Jamieson directs the 2010 documentary. DVD only, available from Screen Archive.
"Tom and Jerry: Around the World" collects 22 classic cartoons from the award-winning cat-and-mouse team.
"Schoolgirl Report Vol. 8: What Parents Must Never Know" (Impulse) is a 1974 installment in the German sexploitation "expose" series, in its original, uncut German version with English subtitles. Like anyone's actually paying attention to the dialogue.