Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

Synopsis: A documentary on the Z Channel, one of the first pay cable stations in the US, and its programming chief, Jerry Harvey. Debuting in 1974, the LA-based channel's eclectic slate of movies became a prime example of the untapped power of cable television.
Director(s): Xan Cassavetes
Production: IFC Films
  1 win & 1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
120 min

The first Kurosawa film

I think I ever saw...

was "Throne of Blood,"

on the Z Channel.

Fellini film, "I Vitteloni."

There was a picture called

"Spider's Stratagem."

Sam Peckinpah's

"The Wild Bunch."

The "Straw Dogs"...

"Bring Me the Head

of Alfredo Garcia."

"The Story of Adele H."

"City Lights."

- "Rear Window."

- "Midnight Cowboy."

- "Ikiru."

- "Song Remains the Same."

"Johnny Guitar."

- "The Onion Field."

- "Los Olvidados."

"The Man Who Fell to Earth."

Every film that Marlon Brando

was ever in.

- Z Channel.

- Z Channel.

- Z Channel.

- Our salvation.

Uncharted territory.

Like tom-toms in the jungle.

- Jerry Harvey.

- Jerry Harvey.

- Programmer.

- Obsessive programmer.

Dark and negative.

- Maverick.

- Nurturing.

Skating that line between

insanity and genius.

What do you think the secret of

the Z Channel's success is?

I don't know.

If I told you,

then it wouldn't be a secret.

My father says there's

only right and wrong.

Good and evil.

Nothing in between.

It isn't that simple, is it?

No, it isn't.

It should be, but it isn't.

KNX News time, 6:06.

A Hollywood story with

a tragic ending this morning.

The bodies of Z Channel

programmer Jerry Harvey...

and his wife Deri Rudulph were

discovered Saturday Night...

in their Westwood home.

Police report Harvey shot

and killed Rudulph...

his wife of two years...

before turning the gun

on himself.

The motive is unknown.

Harvey had been chief programmer

at Z Channel...

which is known

throughout Los Angeles...

for its eclectic and innovative


Both Harvey and Rudulph

were 39 years old.

So it was back in 1974...

and I had just started

selling cable television...

and the Z Channel

had just started.

So we came up here

to the Hollywood hills.

And it was really great...

because these people

had terrible reception.

They couldn't see anything

on their television...

and not only were we offering

good reception...

we gave them movies...

uncut and no commercials...

in their bedroom,

in their living room...

wherever they wanted it.

They ate it up.

It was very, very successful.

It was amazing.

I had friends over

all the time...

because they showed

two movies a night...

as I recall.

And they were uncut,


It was this phenomenon

no one had ever seen.

Theta, the Z Channel, was the

only one in the major cities.

In other words...

New York did not have it

at the time.

Los Angeles was

the first one to do that.

That this actually existed,

you could see this stuff...

was incredible.

So I was like,

"We've got to get this!"

I was living in El Segundo

at the time.

And my mom called up, and, no,

Z Channel wasn't in our area.

Not only was Theta in that area

along the foothills...

but it was who was in the homes

along the foothills...

and those were the folks that

ran the movie industry.

They were films

for the whole family...

but I thought slanted to adults

a little bit.

And those were the films

I tried to get.

"Chinatown" was on a lot

in those days.

They used to run it a lot.

And that was one of

my favorite movies.

And I ended up seeing it

3 or 4 times a week...

at certain points.

I publicized the shows

that we were doing...

in the Hollywood trade papers,

"Variety" and "Reporter"...

and gradually,

word began to spread.

I think it's interesting, too,

to note that in that time...

it's hard to remember this.

I told my kids about it,

and they don't believe me...

but there was a time when there

was no Blockbuster stores.

There was no videocassettes.

None of that existed.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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