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The Paper Chase [VHS] (1973)

Timothy Bottoms , Lindsay Wagner , James Bridges  |  PG |  VHS Tape
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Timothy Bottoms, Lindsay Wagner, John Houseman, Graham Beckel, James Naughton
  • Directors: James Bridges
  • Writers: James Bridges, John Jay Osborn Jr.
  • Producers: Philip L. Parslow, Robert C. Thompson, Rodrick Paul
  • Format: Color, HiFi Sound, NTSC
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Fox Home Entertainme
  • VHS Release Date: May 5, 1998
  • Run Time: 113 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000005QHG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #384,929 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews


Here's a movie that should convince anyone that law school is not for them--particularly Harvard Law School. Timothy Bottoms leads a group of would-be shysters through their first year at Harvard--which amounts to endless studying and backbiting as they try to memorize whole books at a sitting. As the grueling routine begins to get to them, each reacts to the stress in different way. Bottoms's character becomes consumed with winning the attention and approval of the school's crankiest teacher, the crusty Prof. Kingsfield, the role that won "newcomer" John Houseman an Oscar. Alternately funny and harrowing, it makes law school look like the academic equivalent of coal mining. --Marshall Fine

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
88 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Viewing for Teachers: You too can be Kingsfield! September 21, 2000
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
I always warned students at the beginning of each year that I had screened "The Paper Chase" once again and was interested in using the Socratic method to spin the little tumblers of their minds. Certainly this was the film that made me want to curb my innate desire to stand up in the classroom and pontificate on every subject under the sun.
Ostensibly the film is about the pressures of first year students at Harvard Law School, but since most of us do not want to become lawyers, know any lawyers, have any dealings with lawyers or even watch television programs with lawyers, "The Paper Chase" ultimately succeeds as a film about wanting to learn and learning to think. At the heart of the film is James Hart (Timothy Bottoms), come from Minnesota to learn at the feet of the great Professor Charles Kingsfield. Despite some painful moments of confrontation in the classroom with his would be mentor-my favorite: "Mr. Hart, here is a dime. Take it, call your mother, and tell her there is serious doubt about you ever becoming a lawyer"-Hart finds he can play the game and play it well. Having given his mind over to Kingsfield, the question then becomes whether his heart and soul will follow as well. The other members of his study group (which includes Edward Herrmann and James Naughton), make different choices and take different paths in order to survive the year. By the end of the film Hart is more alone than he was at the beginning.
As Kingsfield, John Houseman is the powerful center of the film.
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147 of 168 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Film at many levels April 22, 2001
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
Well... I DID take this class -- Contract Law -- and I took it at Harvard Law School. The class was not ~exactly~ like the one presented in the film, but my Harvard experience was pretty much like the film.
I saw the film in the theatre, originally, weeks before I started classes at Harvard and it was as if Kingsfield directed his questions into the audience and I wanted to dive under the theatre seat. Obviously I had not read the cases. "Hawkins versus McGee" may have been the first case, but I defy anyone to find "Carbolic Smoke Ball" in their editions of West's casebook on Contracts.
My own study group was pretty much like the one shown in the film, except there were women in ours, so "The Paper Chase" is pretty much of a "buddy film" in that women play pretty much of the support role -- Kingsfield's daughter and the ever suffering Ashley who is disarming in her performance as she hands Hart the firearm her husband nearly uses on himself.
Yet, these guys are very real and the movie captured the men of my first year study group, except for the effete Bell who they would have chomped down for breakfast -- better that they had Tom Cruise from "The Firm" add even more colour to the colourless first year students than Bell, "as in liberty Bell."
Yet for its dated 1970's sexist subplots and sometimes silly characters, John Housman manages to hold it all together as the quintessential Harvard professor -- and don't get me wrong -- these grand old men are still alive and well and walk those halls working on those of us student who come into those classes with our "skulls full of mush.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Educational Experience May 7, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
The closest I ever got to Harvard Law School was a graduate class in education law at UC Berkeley. The class was taught by a silver-haired Jesuit, who stood ramrod straight behind his podium at the front of the class and proceded in a manner not unlike John Houseman's Professor Kingsfield. It was only a pale shadow of what is depicted in "The Paper Chase", but it was very enlightening. The way this movie vividly brings back my student days, both the fun and the hard work, is one of the reasons I like it so much. It also shows what people can accomplish.
The plot involves a love affair between Hart, a student who idolizes Kingsfield, and Kingsfield's daughter. It has its funny moments, but is somewhat predictable. What elevates this movie is the psychological study of how the different students respond to their situation, some finding it within themselves to persevere while others fall by the wayside. The film also benefits from strong acting, particularly by John Houseman, who is the quintessential Professor Kingsfield. He is outstanding.
This is an excellent flick. It delivers a dramatic portrayal of an intense academic experience, while delivering some very funny moments along the way. Sort of like real life, sometimes. The TV series spawned by this movie was also quite good, and it's too bad it didn't last longer on its major network. Anyway, both college students and former college students will find a lot to relate to here. Those whose background isn't academic, though, will also find "The Paper Chase" quite entertaining. Highly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty realistic
Recently started law school and this film was recommended to me. A bit more similar to actual law school than people think.
Published 5 days ago by Ana Pincao
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lawyer's Review
An entertaining film, and not a bad representation of law school. It is not an exact representation of law school (there are several instances that are pretty off the mark), but... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Jeffrey Sandoz
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie
Great Movie...........made me sweat as I remembered my college experiences...........a classic
Published 23 days ago by Kevin Morrissey
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Classic. John Houseman set the 'bar' at a very high level
Published 1 month ago by Chas
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Best of the best!
Published 2 months ago by Debora Green
5.0 out of 5 stars For those wanting to become a lawyer...MUST SEE
For anyone considering law school, the Paper Chase is THE BEST portrayal of what to expect. Socratic method. Nonstop anxiety. Only the right minds will survive... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rookie Insurance Advisor
4.0 out of 5 stars More like Law School than You'd Like to think...
This film isn't exciting. Certainly not as exciting as many people would like. Based on a novel of the same name which was written by John Jay Osborn, Jr. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Philip Scholz
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie and Stars
I liked this so well, I may have to look into the series! Famous actors make this a must see with the great storyline!
Published 3 months ago by Mickey
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine
Law school is still a lot like this. First year profs all have a plan to "form" your mind. What is funny though is how they apply the "socratic" method. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Adam DeMuro
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Another great movie
Published 4 months ago by Margo D. Schafer
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Topic From this Discussion
The Paper Chase TV series
How do you locate these? This was one of the best tv shows I rememebr when I was growing up. Would love to find them again.
Mar 2, 2007 by N. Jobin |  See all 31 posts
Alfred Hitchcock Presents R.I.P? Season 4, M.I.A.? Be the first to reply
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