Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004)
★★★ / ★★★★
I have to admit that I’ve never heard of the Z Channel until I started looking for documentaries similar to “Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!” for movie recommendations. “Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession,” directed by Alexandra Cassavetes, was about Jerry Harvey, the man who selected the films that were shown on the first pay cable channel that featured only movies. While it was about his accomplishments and movies that gained fans from his influences, the picture started off with the fact that he had murdered his wife and killed himself afterwards. His friends and the people he worked with recalled how his personality was volatile, how he was brought up, and all of the major events that ended up in the tragedy. Since I’m a fan of HBO and Showtime (Z Channel’s former competitors) I was interested in what the Z Channel was all about and the kinds of movies it showed. What worked for me was the fact that I had the chance to note several films that caught my interest: “Images” (1975), “Overlord” (1972) , “Heaven’s Gate” (1980), “The Decline of Western Civilization” (1981), “L’important c’est d’aimer” (1975) and a whole lot more. The interviewees discussed each one and told us why Harvey decided to show it on the channel. It was fascinating to me how each film didn’t do well commercially upon initial release but after being shown on the Z Channel, they received so much critical acclaim and gained cult status. What’s more impressive is that the “director’s cut” movies (longer running time) fared better than the studio versions (much shorter running time). It really showed me that not only did Harvey have great taste in picking which ones would appeal to the masses but also the fact that he really had the passion for movies; instead of waiting for them to fall on his lap, he actively searched for them and shared to the world what he loved. What didn’t work for me, unfortunately, was the fact that the people being interviewed sometimes said the same exact thing (only using different words) about Harvey: he was moody, aggressive and sometimes cold. I just wished that they featured him under another light. Nevertheless, the positives outweigh the negatives. This documentary made me wish that the Z Channel still existed because I was so fascinated with the strange (and sometimes I’ve never heard of) movies it featured.
Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008)
★★★★ / ★★★★
I like to think of myself as an adventurous moviegoer so I’m on the constant lookout for movies that are vastly different from the mainstream. I’ve heard of the term “exploitation film” before (mainly from Quentin Tarantino because his movies often reference to that genre) but I never really knew what it really meant until I saw this film and did a bit of research about it. I really loved this documentary because I really learned a lot from it. I had no idea that Australia released all these cult classics, some of which have never been released in America. The way Australians made and released these daring movies in the 1970s and 1980s was so refreshing because nowadays, especially here in the United States, those kinds of movies are not made anymore. Once in a blue moon an exploitation flick (or a flick inspired from such like “Wolf Creek”) would be made but it was always under the radar no matter how good or bad it was. Speaking of good and bad, another thing that I loved about this documentary was it put the spotlight on good and bad movies alike and the people being interviewed explained why they thought a particular movie was good or bad (or sometimes even both). It fascinated me and I literally made a list of the movies wanted to check out. Some of them include “Mad Max” (1979), “Turkey Shoot” (1982), “Fairgame” (1985), “Dark Age” (1987), “Next of Kin” (1982), “Long Weekend” (1979), “Road Games” (1981), “Patrick” (1978), and others. The documentary, written and directed by Mark Hartley, was divided into several sections which started from movies about sex and nudity and ended with movies about car crashes and extreme violence. While it did cover a plethora of disparate motion pictures, I was also very impressed with the fact that it found enough time to discuss censorship (or lack thereof) in the era of Ozploitation. I wish this movement would repeat itself here in America because I’m starting to get sick of Hollywood trash being released in theaters weekly. Some days, I just want to see intense car chases with no real story but has a great sense of dialogue (like “Death Proof”) or even a movie about science gone wrong with buckets of blood on the side. Nowadays it’s all about the box office and watching this film really made me feel like the filmmakers wanted to make movies just because they were in love with the process–a reason why some of these exploitation films are so randomly original. I was so excited about the content of this movie, I decided to added some movies on my Netflix (the ones available in America anyway). I just want to see something so risqué and possibly something I can love and recommend to my friends when we don’t feel like going out and spending money.