(aka "Jackpot!" )


directed by Robert Altman
USA 1974

Too often, it seems to me, Robert Altman is valued for his riffs on genre – whether it be the war comedy (M*A*S*H [1970]), the Western (McCabe & Mrs. Miller [1971]), the detective story (The Long Goodbye [1973]), or the Agatha Christie-style murder mystery (Gosford Park [2001]) – and undervalued for his more direct and personal films, the ones which are least self-aware of other movies and most interactive with real life. I don't want to fall into the same trap as those who under-rate that side of Altman by underrating myself the titles I've just rattled off – each and every one of which I love – but simply make the point that to prioritise this strain of Altman above others is to cut oneself off from what may be the purest expressions of this great director's particular vision of life.

California Split belongs to this side of Altman (the only 'genre' it could be said to belong to is the 'gambling movie') as well as another: it joins Images (1972), A Perfect Couple (1979) and Quintet (1979) as one of the least seen and most infrequently discussed of all of his '70s works. Nevertheless, it seems to be on its way to something like a canonisation thanks to some recent Altman retrospectives around the world (though it still remains, unforgivably, unavailable on video in the United States); while the responses I've read – through e-mail lists and personal correspondence – from Altman fans who've just seen it for the first time recently usually borders on the effusive

Excerpt from Senses of Cinema located HERE


Theatrical Release: 7 August 1974

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DVD Review: Columbia Tri-Star - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for the Review!

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Columbia Tri-Star

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:45:24

2.29:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.67 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 3.0)
Subtitles English, Japanese, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Columbia Tri-Star

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.29:1

Edition Details:
• Commentary with Altman, Segal, Gould and Joseph Walsh
• Trailers for Easy Rider, The Company, Big Night

DVD Release Date: November 2, 2004
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Chapters 12



NOTE: Gregory tells us (August 2009): I just been informed re: my California Split review that currently streaming version of this film on Netflix is in complete form without music edits that are on DVD. The DVD rented from them most likely will have the same edited version currently available, so it's strictly on-line version.



NOTE (as sent to us in email): Unfortunately, music rights problems have obliged Columbia to remove almost three minutes of footage and make several soundtrack alterations. Their end product is perhaps the most extreme home viewing travesty since those notorious early video transfers of The President's Analyst. The cut/rescored scenes are as follows:

1- 11m 42s. A 32-second shot has been cut during Bill and Charlie's initial conversation. This showed Bill scat singing while Charlie informed him that "I love to play poker with those redneck fish. Y'now, who think they're Nick the Greek. Love to get 'em steamed. Easy to beat. Suckers".

2- 31m 50s. A scene showing Bill and Charlie at the racetrack ends as Charlie says "Let's go see a man about a horse". This scene originally continued for an additional 8 seconds as the men walked off singing together.

3- 35m 30s. After Barbara (Ann Prentis) opens the door of her house, Bill and Charlie enter. Charlie then turns to a man standing in the doorway, gives him a coin, and says "Here you are, Mr Tenor". This will make no sense to anyone who has not seen the original version, which contained an additional 24 seconds of footage showing Barbara opening the door and finding 'Mr Tenor' singing 'Happy Birthday To You'. Bill and Charlie then appeared and joined him in the song (while Barbara insisted "It's not my birthday").

4- 52m 32s. As Bill enters the strip club where a poker game is taking place, we see a basketball-themed cartoon playing on a television. In the original version, we also heard the song ('Basketball Joe') that accompanied this cartoon. (Incidentally, this animated clip can also be seen - and heard - in Hal Ashby's Being There.)

5- 77m 20s to 79m 16s. The two Phyllis Shotwell songs - 'Goin' to Kansas City' and 'Me and My Shadow' - heard during Bill and Charlie's journey to Reno have been replaced with an instrumental piece. 'Me and My Shadow' provided one of the film's most striking moments. As Shotwell arrived at the line "We never knock, 'cause there's nobody there", Charlie gestured at a passing car and shouted "there ain't nobody there". Although this scene is visually unchanged on the DVD, Charlie's line has been removed from the soundtrack (at 79m 2s). Incredibly, Joseph Walsh can be heard describing this moment (which he refers to as "a miracle") on the commentary track!

6- 86m 46s to 88m 4s. As Charlie walks away from the poker table, the sound of Phyllis Shotwell singing 'You're Nobody 'til Somebody Loves You' has been replaced with Shotwell's rendition of 'The Lonesome Road' - a reprise of the song we'd already heard her singing a mere 85 seconds ago!

7- 90m 12s to 90m 53s. A shot of Bill playing poker no longer includes that Shotwell song heard dimly in the original.

8- 92m 9s. After Charlie leaves Bill at the blackjack table, a 1m 40s scene has been cut. This showed Phyllis Shotwell behind a piano singing 'Georgia On My Mind'. While Charlie struck up a conversation with a fellow gambler sitting near Shotwell's piano, Bill continued playing blackjack, and we saw that the woman dealing him cards was wearing a badge revealing her name to be Barbara (making her the last of this film's many Barbaras). Columbia's editing has Charlie return to the blackjack table only a few seconds after he left.


Here's what Altman said about the cuts (from an interview in StopSmiling magazine):

"And a lot of them weren't [released] because of music clearances, or certain copyright problems. We had to make adjustments. The cost of the music track on California Split was so high that Columbia just couldn't put it into video or DVD. That kept it out of circulation for years. Finally, Elliot Gould went in to find out why they weren't releasing it. When they told him it was because of music, he said "Isn't there something we can do about that?" So I made some cuts and took a couple of songs out. We got it into what they considered a reasonable budget. The picture wasn't hurt by it. And that's out now. It doesn't make any difference, the quality of these things. It's as good as anyone sees them..."


An excellent Robert Altman film that unfortunately recently went out-of-print. It can still be purchased for under $10 at Amazon Marketplace, so I recommend you hurry to pick it up. The image has the usual 1970's Altman grainy look, but the print is clean from damage and is anamorphically enhanced. The soundtrack is the original Dolby Digital 3.0. As a bonus, Columbia provided a commentary with Robert Altman, the writer and actor Joseph Walsh and 2 leads, George Segal and Elliott Gould. A highly recommended disc for an underrated Altman classic.

 - Gregory Meshman



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