From 1974 to 1989, Z Channel graced the Los Angeles airwaves as one of the country's first pay-television stations. Though its subscription rate barely reached into the hundred thousands, the cable station presaged later c... more »hannels such as Sundance and IFC with an eclectic slate of movie programming that included art-house, foreign, independent, classic, and otherwise rare and/or out-of-the-mainstream films--this at at time when VCRs and cable were still in their infancy and cinephiles had to frequent repertory theaters to quench their cinematic thirsts. Z Channel's visionary approach was the brainchild of its main programmer, Jerry Harvey, who shaped the station's offerings with his encyclopedic knowledge and impeccable taste as well as innovations like director's cuts and theme nights. Unfortunately, the very qualities that made Harvey such a cinematic obsessive also lent themselves to emotional instability, and both he and Z Channel came to an abrupt end when he killed his wife and then himself one tragic night in 1988. Director Xan Cassavetes (daughter of indie icons John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands) fashions a movie-lover's tribute to Harvey's pioneering station with her documentary Z CHANNEL: A MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, which tells its story through talking-head interviews with such notable Z fans as Quentin Tarantino, Robert Altman, Jim Jarmusch, and Alexander Payne, as well as a wealth of film clips sure to make cinephiles drool« less
Sarah F. (Ferdy63) from DALTON, GA Reviewed on 2/16/2009...
If you're not from California, you may not have ever heard of Z Channel. I know I never had. This is the story of the man who started the idea of pay cable channels (like Showtime, HBO) with the Z Channel. He was a tormented genius who ended up committing murder/suicide. I was very intrigued by the interviews and also inspired to go and look up some of the movies highlighted throughout the film. If you're a movie buff, you will definitely enjoy learning more about the history of Z channel. Too bad it's not still around and available nationwide.
4 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.
"The uncommon denominator, that is what we want. "
Dymon Enlow | 11/14/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Z Channel (a pay channel in 70's/80's L.A. which played an eclectic array of the world's finest cinema) sounds like a paradise for film lovers. Unfortunately this overly talkative documentary isn't so much about Z Channel itself as it is Jerry Harvey, the main guy behind the channel. I appreciate the fact that he put so much effort into the channel and had such a true love for cinema, but honestly he came off as an annoying, abusive type of guy who ended up murdering his wife before killing himself.
The film clips are the best part (especially THE MOON'S OUR HOME and LE MAGNIFIQUE) and the interviews are fun, even Quentin Tarantino who flails around like he's having a seizure, but there's never any actual footage from Z Channel itself. Why not? Personally they could have cut the time about Jerry Harvey down to 5 minutes and had the rest about the films. "
Absorbing and informative!
E. Karasik | Washington, DC United States | 02/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary about Jerry Harvey, the innovative and obsessive program director of Z Channel, was just fascinating. The film maker did a very thorough job of piecing together the unique phenomenon that was Z Channel once Jerry Harvey infused it with his incredibly eclectic and knowledgeable zest for offbeat, under-appreciated films. The lengths he would go to to retrieve uncut versions of many films that had been butchered by inept studio-mandated editing were extreme; he became a true hero to a number of directors whose uncut work would never have reached an audience but for his efforts. The documentary is punctuated by clips from many of the films shown on Z channel, which are big fun to see. I found myself rewinding, pen and paper in hand, to make notes about all the films I wanted to see in full. The film maker also does a good job of piecing together the context of events that led to Harvey's tragic end. Media types and film students will be enthralled by this superb documentary, but I think it would be of great interest to anyone even remotely interested in film."
I wanna see More Z Channel
joseph Corey | Raleigh, NC United States | 10/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I enjoyed the film, but it is truthfully lacking in that it has nothing from Z Channel. Where are the promos? Where are the intros to their festivals? What was it like to watch this special channel during its heyday? I would have enjoyed film clips if they were like the "coming attractions" run on the channel.
This documentary can be made into a magazine article. But I do recommend it for viewing. I just wish it was more than talking heads and film clips."
A "must see" for film buffs
Mark | USA | 09/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I couldn't resist writing a review for this fabulous documentary that was featured on IFC a few months ago. This is a "must see" for film buffs.
The Z Channel was the first movie channel to play independent, little seen, and foreign films (basically it was the first IFC or Sundance channel). Featuring interviews with directors Quentin Tarantino, Robert Altman, and Alexander Pane, "Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession" focuses on the effect the channel had on the film industry. For example James Woods credits his Oscar nomination to the Z Channel's constant playing of Salvador to the right people!
As a film geek I also enjoyed the generous amount of film clips by director Alexandra Cassavetes (John Cassavetes daughter). The film is packed with film clips from the various movies Z Channel played over the years. I was turned on to movies like Bad Timing and F is for Fake.
Clips featured include Andrei Rublev, Attilas '74, La Notte, Black Orpheus, The Leopard, Turkish Delight, Fingers, Berlin Alexanderplatz, and the list goes on!
If you consider yourself to be a "film geek" like me, "Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession" is a must own."
The Z Channel was a huge influence on my life
TL | Los Angeles, CA United States | 11/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a child living in the San Fenando Valley, we were unable to get the Z Channel through most of its heyday. But having divorced parents my weekends were spent at my father's house in the Hollywood Hills where the Z Channel was always a fixture.
Watching this documentary reminded me how much I was shaped by the Z Channel. Being exposed to such a wide variety of films (both "art" and "commercial") opened my mind in ways that transcended simply becoming a film buff. It was one of the many factors in my world that made me ask real questions about life. I'm convinced I'd have been poorer for it had I never had those weekend days and nights.
I think it is a mistake to see this film as either a glorification or condemnation of Jerry Harvey personally. His story is clearly a horrible tragedy that cannot be reconciled. But his work certainly had value. I don't think one cancels out the other. We live in a morally complicated universe. I learned that watching movies every weekend at my father's house.