Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession


Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 13


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,112
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Movie Info

The Z Channel wasn't America's first premium cable outlet specializing in feature films, and it wasn't the most commercially successful, but few, if any, had as strong an impact on the film industry or a more influential list of customers. Based in California and blanketing sections of the state dominated by the movie business, Z Channel had been operating for several years before former screenwriter Jerry Harvey took over as head of programming in 1980. Under the guidance of Harvey and his staff, the channel became a film buff's dream, screening rare classics, important foreign films, and maverick American titles that had fallen through the cracks of commercial distribution. Harvey and his staff also programmed original and uncut versions of films which had only played American theaters in altered form (including Heaven's Gate, Once Upon a Time in America, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and The Leopard) long before the concept of the "director's cut" had currency beyond the most hardcore of film fans. And The Z Channel aggressively championed pictures they believed were overlooked, and programmed deserving Oscar-nominated movies during the Academy's voting period, years before studios began distributing video "screeners" to potential voters. (More than one industry expert has credited Z Channel's showings of Annie Hall as a key factor in the film winning Best Picture.) But Jerry Harvey was also a deeply troubled man, and when legal and economic problems began dogging the company in the late '80s, he snapped, leading to a horrible and tragic murder and suicide. The Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession is a documentary that looks at the channel's short but remarkable history as well as Harvey's damaged personal life. It includes interviews with Robert Altman, Quentin Tarantino, James Woods, Jim Jarmusch, Alexander Payne and a number of other filmmakers and critics who attest to Z Channel's lasting impact.


Critic Reviews for Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

All Critics (13)

Audience Reviews for Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

  • Jun 19, 2013
    A very well laid out documentary on a channel that is likely not familiar to those who didn't grow up in the Los Angeles area but would have loved to have grown up with. This is a tale of both a channel and Jerry Harvey who was the mastermind behind it. Ultimately Harvey's own limitations would lead to the downfall of both.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Feb 02, 2010
    Z Channel - A Magnificent Obsession is a pretty damn good documentary about one of the first and possibly the best (from the sound of it if nothing else) cable movie channels ever. Z Channel not only played an incredibly wide selection of great movies that were swept under the rug by studios for what was considered disappointing box office performances, but it also helped institute what we know today as the director's cut. That being said, Z Channel - A Magnificent Obsession is about the channel itself and its founder/programming director, Jerry Harvey. This documentary basically has one of a few things going on at any given time. There's either 1) a clip from any given movie that played on Z's eclectic rotation, 2) an interview with a director whose career was either jump started or saved by Harvey or 3) an interview with one of Harvey's close friends/exes/employees talking about how brilliant and/or fucking insane he was. This documentary also really makes you appreciative and grateful considering most of us wouldn't have heard of the movies we love today, let alone would have been able to see them if not for Harvey's work at Z Channel. This documentary is a must for any serious or even fair weather film buff who can even appreciate something different. Watching this movie also opens an incredibly huge can of worms by adding almost 2 dozen movies to my must-see list. It's like Martin Scorsese's Personal Journey Through American Movies all over again...
    Michael G Super Reviewer
  • Jun 08, 2009
    Engaging and entertaining doc that is a must for film nerds. (Although, I really wish QT would calm the fuck down when being interviewed.) It's really interesting after watching this and reading Easy Riders, Raging Bulls at the same time makes me want to reconsider my career path. It's a shame that this channel isn't still around and the wreckage that this man left behind. Good thing the last name of the director of this doc was Cassavettes who was able to tell a great story.
    Tim S Super Reviewer
  • Sep 04, 2008
    If only the Z channel was still around today! Extremely interesting documentary, a must for film buffs everywhere.
    Emily B Super Reviewer

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