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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Blood Couple" or "Double Possession" or "Blackout: Moment of Terror" or "Black Evil" )

 

directed by Bill Gunn
USA 1973

"Doctor Hess Green.../Doctor of Anthropology, Doctor of Geology.../While studying the ancient Black civilization of Myrthia.../was stabbed by a stranger three times.../one for God the Father, one for the Son.../and one for the Holy Ghost.../stabbed with a dagger, diseased from that ancient culture whereupon he became addicted/and could not die.../nor could he be killed."

These series of title cards open the film, telegraphing events that take their time to actually occur in the film. Hess Green (Duane Jones, the hero of
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD) was an atypical black figure for American audiences of the time, a wealthy, cultured intellectual independent of white society. He has a chauffeured Rolls Royce, a beautiful upstate New York home, and is able to study and consult without being tied to an academic institution. When we meet him, he takes on an unstable research assistant George Meda (writer/director Bill Gunn) while studying a bone dagger belonging to the ancient blood-drinking African civilization of Myrthia. When Meda flips out and stabs Hess with the dagger before committing suicide, Hess discovers that he cannot die and that he has a thirst for blood. Things get more complicated when Meda's wife Ganja (Marlene Clark) arrives on the scene and does not react as expected upon discovering Hess' addiction.

Long before Hess is stabbed with the dagger, his chauffer (one of the film's narrators, played by actor/composer Sam Waymon whose character is also a preacher) says that Hess is both an addict and a victim. Some writers have supposed that the dagger awakened his latent blood-thirst but another valid perspective might be that Hess' addiction is his academic obsession with blood-as-origin. When asked why he took an interest in the Myrthian culture, Hess replies that "it seemed to fit my fantasies." One of Waymon's songs heard in the film has the lyric "The blood of the thing is the truth of the thing" and ends with the lyric "because he had become addicted to truth." Playright/filmmaker Gunn juxtoposes throughout images of Christianity and Western art with images of African art and spirituality to convey Hess' growing alienation and his hunger to connect.

By no means is this a straightforward vampire film - the term is never uttered - it is a challenging, nonlinear, at times elliptical film that should have been recognized as a major accomplishment (it got rave reviews at Cannes). Instead, it was cut and shuffled into somewhat linear order (by film doctor Fima Noveck who also recut another artful vampire film Harry Kumel's DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, Antonio Margheriti's WEB OF THE SPIDER, and Mauro Bolognini's THE INHERITANCE) and retitled BLOOD COUPLE, BLACKOUT - MOMENT OF TERROR, and DOUBLE POSSESSION for different markets.

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: No Theatrical Release for Original Cut / Shown at Cannes

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Comparison:

All Day Entertainment (The Complete Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the DVD Review!

1) All Day Entertainment (The Complete Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT
2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Cover

 

Distribution

All Day Entertainment

Region 1 - NTSC

Kino

Region FREE - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:52:08 1:53:16.070
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.91 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.66:1 - 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 39,253,134,267 bytes

Feature: 32,385,685,248 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.75 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Bitrate Blu-ray

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles none none
Features Release Information:
Studio: All Day Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by actress Marlene Clark, cinematographer James Hinton, producer Chiz Schultz, and actor/composer Sam Waymon
• The Blood of the Thing featurette
• Ganja and Hess Reduced
• Animated Photo Gallery
• DVD-ROM Screenplay
• DVD-ROM article on the film by Tim Lucas and David Walker

DVD Release Date: October 3rd, 2006
Amaray

Chapters 22

Release Information:
Studio: All Day Entertainment

 

1.66:1 - 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray
Disc Size: 39,253,134,267 bytes
Feature: 32,385,685,248 bytes
Video Bitrate: 31.75 Mbps
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
 

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by actress Marlene Clark, cinematographer James Hinton, producer Chiz Schultz, and actor/composer Sam Waymon
• The Blood of the Thing featurette
• 32 Photo Gallery

• BD-ROM content: Screenplay by Bill Gunn
• BD-ROM article on the film by Tim Lucas and David Walker


Blu-ray Release Date:
May 8th, 2012
Standard Blu-ray case

Chapters 15

  

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION Kino Blu-ray - April 2012: After Bill Gunn completed Ganja & Hess, the film was edited without his involvement from 113 minutes to 78 minutes. Because the original negative had been altered, the only complete surviving prints of the original were used 35mm prints. The best of these film elements were combined to create the 35mm negative from which this Blu-ray edition was mastered. The restoration was performed by MoMA with support from The Film Foundation. IMDb claims the film to be shot for 1.85:1 - the DVD seems closer to 1.78 but the new Blu-ray is almost exactly 1.66:1 and shows a lot more information in the frame. The Blu-ray transfer certainly shows a significant amount more detail and is heavily thick with grain. Minimal damage is still there but it is mostly in the form of speckles or frame-specific scratches. The overall image is much brighter and colors impressively tighter in comparison to the SD. It's a giant leap forward - visually.

We are given a linear PCM track still sounding weak but I'll wager the best the film can sound at present. Things are a bit scattered but there are no dropouts or pops - it matches the video adequately. There are no subtitles and the Blu-ray is coded region FREE - playable on machines worldwide.

Extras duplicate the All-Day DVD (as discussed by Eric below) with the group commentary. We lose the 'Ganja and Hess Reduced' , but the 'Blood of the Thing' featurette, Photo Gallery and 2 text pieces are available in HTML format in a folder on the BD-ROM.

Impressive restoration of one of the more unique films I've seen in years. The upgraded 1080P video improvement is the key reason to indulge. I would expect this advances to a 'new' viewing for those who have only seen it on SD. Recommended!

- Gary Tooze

***

ON THE DVD: This "complete version" includes in inevitably poor quality a brief sequence in which a character leaves as a suicide note a poem called "To the Black Male Children." This sequence was missed when editor Victor Kanefsky's reels were combined with the cinematographer James Hinton's incomplete reels to do the initial restoration as it was not included in either of their materials (including the print shown at Cannes) and not noticed until afterwards. The sequence was restored from a 16mm print that had been making the rounds at universities. The recut version of GANJA & HESS titled BLOOD COUPLE (aka DOUBLE POSSESSION, BLACKOUT: MOMENT OF TERROR, BLACK VAMPIRE, VAMPIRES OF HARLEM, BLACK EVIL) could not be included as it is owned by MGM and neither they nor subsequently Sony sublicense titles in their catalogue. Although disowned by everyone involved in the production, the recut version's linear framing does bear more resemblance to Gunn's original screenplay (published in Phyllis Klotman's "Screenplays of the African American Experience" and also available in the DVD-ROM supplements). The structure of Gunn's approved version arose out of daily changes made by Gunn and his post production collaboration with editor Victor Kanefsky.

That said, the anamorphic 1.85:1 images is beautiful in a rough-hew way given the original lighting, the Super 16mm gauge and stock, and the private storage of the elements (the Museum of Modern Art's copy is likely in no better shape given the multiple screenings but Hinton and Kanefsky donated their reels to MoMA after the 1998 digital restoration work to composite and conform their reels with MoMA's print for future screenings - it is not currently known what MoMA have done with the materials or if they have included the missing sequence from the 1998 restoration since All Day did notify them of this omission). A shot thought to be cropped since nudity is obscured actually seems artfully composed but there is one instance where an actor's head is completely cut off by the upper frame (in a humorous anecdote related in Video Watchdog #130, it is reported that Gunn said it was composed that way because servants are superfluous in social situations but Hinton confirms it was a problem with the viewfinder during shooting).

The informative and pleasant commentary with actress Marlene Clark, cinematographer Hinton (who died in 2006), actor/composer Sam Waymon, and producer Chiz Schultz is carried over from the original DVD. New featurettes include "The Blood of the Thing" ... and one examining some scenes in detail with commentary by Schultz. An animated photo gallery is an extra. Besides the screenplay, the DVD-ROM supplements also feature Tim Lucas' and David Walker's article on the differences between the two cuts of the film reprinted from Video Watchdog #2.

For more info on the initial 1998 restoration, see Video Watchdog #47. For information on this restoration, see Video Watchdog #130. I also recommend Phyllis Klotman and Manthia Diawara's 1990 analysis published in the journal JUMP CUT 35:30-36 (online version at JUMP CUT's website
HERE: )

The navigation of the DVD (at least my copy) is a tad problematic. After pressing the start button you are taken to a disclaimer mentioning the condition of the elements and offered the option to return to the main menu (as if one would give up on watching the film because of the elements considering the film's rarity). Once the film is actually started, hitting menu on some players just restarts the film rather than going to the menu.

 - Eric Cotenas


 Menus

 

1) All Day Entertainment (The Complete Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT
2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

 

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Screen Captures

 

1) All Day Entertainment (The Complete Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) All Day Entertainment (The Complete Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) All Day Entertainment (The Complete Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) All Day Entertainment (The Complete Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) All Day Entertainment (The Complete Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) All Day Entertainment (The Complete Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


 

1) All Day Entertainment (The Complete Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP
2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM


Restored scene (from 16mm)

 

More Blu-ray Captures


DVD Box Cover

 

Distribution

All Day Entertainment

Region 1 - NTSC

Kino

Region FREE - Blu-ray





 

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Gary Tooze

Thank You!