DVD REVIEWS: Z Channel

Hart Sharp
Movie •••• Picture/Sound •••• Extras •••½
He never worked for a studio, and he only had a hand in the creation of a single obscure film, but Jerry Harvey is the man who invented the Director's Cut. How? By brilliantly programming a cable TV station, the Z Channel, in pre-video, mid-1970s Los Angeles. He rescued countless lost masterpieces (Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America, Orson Welles's Touch of Evil) and proved that there's a viable market outside the mainstream. But to say that Harvey had a dark side is a gross understatement - he eventually murdered his wife and killed himself.

Z Channel mixes new interviews of friends and filmmakers with an astonishing array of movie clips to tell three stories: the channel's triumph, Harvey's personal tragedy, and the joyful resurrection of all those great films. It's a spellbinder. The interview segments look sharp and rich, and the clips are clean and enticing (and always accurate in their aspect ratios). Extras include a commentary by director Alexandra Cassavetes and six crew members, 20 minutes of footage that could have made the film, an American Film Institute tribute to Z, and a radio interview with Harvey. After watching, you'll want to buy all those now-available classics. [R] English, Dolby Digital stereo; letterboxed (1.78:1), anamorphic widescreen, and various aspect ratios; dual layer.

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