California Split: Full Version (108 minutes)!


I really REALLY want to watch Robert Altman's California Split, but the problem is that the DVD version is 3 minutes shorter than the original version, because of certain music rights and I want to watch it in its original state.

Does anyone here possibly know how I could get a hold of an unedited version of this film (in good quality)?

Thanks in advance,

Cobpyth's Movie Log ~ 2019

Does anyone here possibly know how I could get a hold of an unedited version of this film ?
If'n you're still interested, Cob...

‘California Split’: Robert Altman’s Slippery Gem Is Restored To Its Original Form On Amazon Prime

The Playlist, May 12, 2020, Jason Bailey

The relatively low placement of California Split in the common consideration of Robert Altman’s masterpieces is, if we’re being honest, less about the quality of the picture (more on that presently) than on its general availability. Unlike his smash M*A*S*H or critical successes like McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Nashville, this 1974 comedy/drama never had an ‘80s-era domestic VHS release to affirm its reputation; like a fair number of pre-home video titles, it was snagged by music rights, which the original deals only licensed for theatrical exhibition and television airings. Those songs would have to be cleared (and paid for) again for home video use, and according to Altman, “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.”

When it finally hit DVD in 2004, the director had to compromise, supervising a new cut that changed some music cues, deleted others, and excised music-related sections of scenes altogether. It ran nearly three minutes shorter (the cuts are detailed here), it’s something of a travesty, and that disc has long gone out of print anyway. Those hoping to see Altman’s original version had to either see it at a revival screening (unlikely for those not living in major markets), catch a rare television screening (where it’s frequently cropped to 16:9 from its original 2.35:1 presentation), or wait for it to pop on the streaming services (also, usually cropped). So the film’s recent, unexpected appearance on Amazon Prime Video, with all the music intact and in its original aspect ratio, feels like a welcome quarantine treat.

It’s somewhat ironic that music has made California Split so hard to see because so little of the film’s musicality is about copyrighted songs. It’s about the melodiousness of the places its compulsive gambler characters dwell: the busy buzz of the casinos and poker clubs, the little hum of chatter in the private high-stakes games, the murmur of shop talk, the clicking of chips. Gambling dramas have always battled the problem of letting the outsider in, as a not-inconsiderable portion of the audience may not know the rules and rituals of these games. As if predicting that concern, Altman opens his film with one of his characters watching a “HOW TO PLAY POKER” video tutorial while waiting for a spot to open up at a poker club. At first, it seems like an explainer, and a clever one at that – a quick way to brief anyone who doesn’t know the rules. But little of that video’s information comes into play because Altman isn’t concerned with the rules of the game; he’s interested in what it’s like to sit in these games and to move between them. Looking back, the device exists not as exposition, but as character introduction, since we learn a fair amount about Charlie (Elliot Gould), the career gambler watching it, from his laconic commentary.

He finally gets a seat at the table, alongside Bill (George Segal), a magazine writer and relative newcomer to this world. Bill ends up helping Charlie out of a dispute, and as an audience that’s seen a gambling/heist/con man picture or two, we’re so accustomed to the surprise reveal (turns out they’re partners, working together!) that screenwriter Joseph Walsh surprises us by not doing it. No, they are indeed strangers, though not for long; they find themselves at the same bar afterward, and Altman gives us a marvelous cut from them buying each other a beer to the two of them at the same bar hours later, thoroughly hammered, with several empty glasses in front of them.

In the scenes that follow, California Split keenly and perceptively captures how someone you meet in a chance encounter can become a best friend (at least for a while) in a few short hours. Though he’s already falling down the gambling rabbit hole, Bill still lives some semblance of a normal life: real job, real office, real hours. With Charlie, he quickly assumes a vampire schedule and starts finding excuses to sneak out of work to hang out at racetracks and in back rooms with his new pal. They’re not picky about what they play – they’re just looking for action, no matter how big or small (“Ten dollars says you can’t name the seven dwarfs”),

Some viewers grouse that the picture is aimless or too shaggy, but there is plot – a lot of it, actually. You’ve got the veteran who takes the rookie under his wing, their various hustles and angles, their half-hearted romantic pursuits, how Bill flounders on his own and goes deeper into debt, culminating in a trip to Reno for a big game that will hopefully dig him out of the hole. But Altman’s approach to the material is so modest and organic that you never feel the narrative gears grinding. He keeps the focus squarely on Bill and Charlie and is less concerned with what happens to them than with how they react to it, and how they treat each other.

That last point is the key. When Charlie disappears unexpectedly and without explanation, Bill sees it as a personal betrayal – an abandonment, really – and when Charlie returns, Bill lashes out at him. Charlie subsequently feels betrayed himself, when Bill makes him leave the room during the big game. In homing in on these beats and playing them out, Altman and Walsh are wrestling with the vulnerability and sensitivity of male friendship, and it becomes clear, as the narrative continues, that this is the real subject of the film.
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

Nice one Holden. Funnily enough, I also saw that on Twitter yesterday and sent a link over to Cobpyth too It's been years since I saw the film but I was a big fan as well, so I am probably going to use this as an excuse to rewatch it, maybe with a few other Altman films.

It's finally happening. I've been looking forward to this since I became an Altman fan many years ago. Will try to watch it this weekend.

It's finally happening. I've been looking forward to this since I became an Altman fan many years ago. Will try to watch it this weekend.
Bad news. There seems to be absolutely no way for me to watch that full length (and correct aspect ratio) Amazon version here in Belgium. For now at least. I've been told that even the most well known VPNs don't work for Amazon Prime either. So I'm still stuck for the moment.