Dante’s Weekend Double: Week Three Of “Justice For Juneteenth” Bleeds For ‘Ganja & Hess’ Followed By ‘The Last Dragon’

Dat Sweet Shogun Blood
Duane Jones in Ganja & Hess (1973), Kelly-Jordan Enterprises, and Julius Carry in The Last Dragon (1985), TriStar Pictures

A little late, but still time to celebrate. The third week in this month’s dive into black cinema brings two of life’s greatest joys: 70s Horror and 80s Action. The first movie is a dark tale of vampirism so you best ‘protect ya neck!’

Ganja & Hess (Kelly-Jordan Enterprises)

From 1973, Hess Green (Night of the Living Dead‘s Duane Jones) is a Doctor of Anthropology & Geology. He lives in a nicely decorated mansion where he researches an ancient civilization of African blood-suckers called the Myrthia.

One night, his unhinged assistant, George (Bill Gunn), stabs him three times with a Myrthian ceremonial dagger before self-terminating. As it turns out, the dagger is cursed and Doctor Hess becomes a vampire that must drink freshly squeezed people stuff to continue his anthropological studies…and obviously to stay alive as well.

George’s estranged (and freshly-widowed) wife, Ganja (Marlene Clark), shows up at the mansion looking for her dagger-wielding husband and sparks immediately start flying between the two, but then she discovers his dark secret…and what’s left of George.

Ganja & Hess is not just a landmark for black cinema, but also for independent film altogether. In lieu of a plot, the viewer gets the characters’ raw experience as it’s happening to them with layers of metaphors weaved through it from cultural assimilation to religion.

Duane Jones schools it as both a chill creature of the night that can charm someone out of a few pints, and also a damned doctor tortured by the dark fate forced upon him.

But it is Clark’s character transformation that’s the most interesting. Without dropping any spoilers, her descent into darkness is fast, and maybe a little too easygoing, but at least she still looks good while doing so.

Duane Jones
Duane Jones goes from zombies to vampires in Ganja & Hess (1973), Kelly-Jordan Enterprises

Ganja & Hess can be drained from the TUBI app.

The Last Dragon (Motown Productions/Delphi III Productions)

From director Michael Schultz, and produced by Rupert Hitzig for the “Father of Motown” Berry Gordy is this amazing gem of a genre blend.

Take a mystical journey back to the ancient lands of New York City in 1985, and watch the path of a young warrior by the name of Leroy Green (played by Taimak) who’s also known on the streets as “Bruce Leroy.” Not only is this because he idolizes the late/great Bruce Lee but because he’s also a martial artist on the path to greatness.

His master tells him that he must set out on a journey to reach that final elevation called “The Last Dragon” which gives the ability to concentrate all of his energy into his hands and give Bruce Leroy “The Glow” all over his body.

Anyone with a mind for evil had better watch out – ‘cause when he’s got The Glow, everybody know, and he’s friend and foe. They’ll all beware. They’ll all beware ‘cause they know that he’s got the fire there…

Anyways, his road to The Glow is disrupted when a slime ball arcade owner named Eddie Arkadian (Christopher Murney) kidnaps local VJ Laura Charles (played by the late Vanity) so he can force her to promote his business and feature his painfully untalented girlfriend on her Soul Train knockoff TV show.

Just when it seems like our young hero has had enough drama on his journey, that’s when he comes to the wrong center and will enter the winter.

Who’s meanest? Who’s the prettiest? Who’s the ‘baddest’ mofo low-down around this town?


Feel The Glow
Bruce Leroy (Taimak) feels The Glow in The Last Dragon (1985), Motown Productions

Sho’nuff (an iconic performance by Julius Carry) is the “Shogun of Harlem,” a fellow martial artist (and gang leader) who views Leroy as the only thing standing in the way of quenching his glowing red thirst to be the true master.

A terrific mix of comedy, and classic Kung Fu which also makes it a great pairing with John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China.

All of the performances are solid including Taimak (who learned how to act while filming), and of course, the music is hot. Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon is a celebration of style and over-the-top action.

Captured Vanity
Eddie Arkadian (Christopher Murney) makes Laura (Vanity) watch Leroy (Taimak) fight for his life in The Last Dragon (1985), Motown Productions

Get The Glow over on TUBI.

NEXT: Dante’s Weekend Double: Justice For Juneteenth Rolls On With ‘Bones’ and ‘I’m Gonna Git You Sucka’

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