The Paper Chase (1973) Poster

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10/10
MISTER Hart............
RNMorton5 February 2005
Story of Bottoms and cohorts trying to make it through first year of Harvard Law. Of anything I ever saw this is the one movie that made me want to go to law school. It's one of those treasured movies I feel like I lived; I actually used to set my watch, sit back and smile before my exams just like my boy Timothy. Bottoms perfectly captures the feel of a smart, hip and modest kid from the sticks trying to hang tough in the pressure cooker. Houseman was a behind-the-scenes movie guy who became an overnight sensation with his portrayal of the brilliant, caustic Professor Kingsfield. Wagner is hauntingly beautiful as Bottom's elusive love interest. I don't know how someone first viewing this film today would look at it, but it still has a classic, timeless quality for me and I highly recommend it.
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8/10
law school pressure and the pre-bionic woman
george-devlin4 February 2003
I have friends who have gone to law school and their subjective descriptions of how intense an experience that was seem to be validated in this now 30-year-old film. Houseman and Bottoms shine, the rest of the cast (while a bit too stuffy) seem to compliment them without flaw. I liked seeing a very young (unspoiled) Lindsey Wagner in her pre-bionic woman days. Truthfully, though certainly dated at this point, this film still held my interest. I was, however, disappointed in the last scene, for although it may have meant to be liberating for the Bottoms character to shift his priorities the timing, (upon receipt of his final grades) seemed ill chosen. Still, one can't help but root for him through all of this. In the end one wonders if while retaining his idealism he sacrificed his sanity.
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An education about getting an education
Ajtlawyer24 October 2001
Have there been any other movies that are as good about the process of getting an education? Yes, you can guess from my login name that I'm a lawyer. I didn't go to Harvard but I can attest that the student/faculty struggle the movie depicts is realistic (and thankfully confined only to a few traditionalist Socratic profs now). The stress and tension involved in getting a law degree is accurate, too. We had a saying, the first year they scared you to death, the second year they worked you to death, the third year they bored you to death. I'd seen the movie years before I went to law school and then I watched it again a few months after I graduated. I actually started getting sick to my stomach and shifted uneasily in my chair as I watched the classroom scenes. It was the one and only time a movie induced a "flashback" for me and I can understand now why some war veterans cannot watch war movies.

John Houseman hadn't been in a movie in years when he made this one and he got a deserved Oscar for it. Having a babe like Lindsey Wagner would've made law school easier but I wasn't that lucky. On the other hand, the romance in the movie depicts a dilemma that many people find themselves in---they're caught up in an important part of their life such as getting a degree, dealing with a very challenging job, and then suddenly an opportunity for romance comes along. Do you let the romance distract you from your larger cause? "The Competition" was another movie that dealt with that romance vs. career theme and did it well.
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9/10
as a film school staple.
ptb-813 October 2005
Thirty six years ago (!) before multiplexes and without the blunting effect of Tarantino and Bigelow, regular effective and intelligent movies like THE PAPER CHASE were made by film companies who co-existed in a gentleman's game called production and exhibition. Films like this were made as stand alone statements about life and love and education, and were shown in luxury cinemas that had furniture (lampshades, even!) in the foyers and well dressed, informed adult staff. Today, in this clever new century we have an industry that has sawn off its own creative head in order to film the blood spurt, and reduced movie-going to all the elegance of a supermarket. Other comments here will tell you the whole story, but as with this comment, each distill down to one thing: THE PAPER CHASE is an excellent and interesting film made in a year of truly exceptional memorable films. Sadly THE PAPER CHASE has not been seen on TV or in cinemas for three decades either, a calamity hopefully balanced by a DVD release so new generations can discover what sensible life and times 1973 was....and how life had hope and success within reach. Timothy Bottoms and Lindsay Wagner have never really gone on to anything better either. The late great John Houseman reinvented a career at aged 71 in this film and won an Oscar for his withering excellence. What a great script and performances, and a defining film in many ways. Students in film schools everywhere should study THE PAPER CHASE ...perhaps along with LOVE STORY and CARNAL KNOWLEDGE two other films of the same period that fit the look and style and success of this film. I would love to sit in on a discussion by today's 20 year olds who having seen each of those three films can explain their success.
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8/10
In The Case Of Hart vs. Houseman
Lechuguilla6 January 2008
I shall recite the facts of the case, forthwith. An idealistic first year law student from the Midwest, named Hart (Timothy Bottoms), along with several other students find themselves unprepared for the academic rigors of Harvard Law School. Their insecurities bump up against the high standards of the renowned and intimidating Professor Kingsfield (John Houseman) who teaches a class in contract law. Further, Hart happens to become romantically involved with a woman named Susan (Lindsay Wagner) who initially fails to tell Hart that she is Kingsfield's daughter. Complications ensue.

"The Paper Chase" is a rather slow moving drama laced with occasional humor. The dispassionate story is simple and straightforward, if perhaps slightly contrived. It lacks emotional intensity, especially by today's standards. But that's somewhat to be expected for a setting that is so cloistered and cerebral. Characters are stereotypical, but still interesting.

And the "heart" of the story is the discourse between student and professor, especially as Hart relates, or fails to relate, to the demanding Kingsfield, a man who never smiles. Kingsfield has a one-track mind. He lives, breathes, and sleeps contract law. He expects his students to do the same. Always impersonal, he's like an intellectual robot. And half the fun of the film is listening to John Houseman's monologues, as he "fills the room with (Kingsfield's) intelligence".

The film's color cinematography is fine; camera "takes" are very long. The film's visuals do look dated. Guys have long hair. And students use ... typewriters -- yikes! Background music is intermittent and mostly classical. Overall acting is fine. Both Timothy Bottoms and Lindsay Wagner give credible performances. And, of course, John Houseman is terrific. I can't imagine anyone else in that role.

Low-key, and nostalgic in its view of education, "The Paper Chase" is a good film to watch for its high technical quality, for its theme of the individual trying to measure up to society's expectations, and of course for the wonderful performance of John Houseman.
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A must see for One-Ls
kls1314 July 2001
So, you're planning on starting law school in the fall, are you? Even if it's not Harvard, you should definitely watch this movie to see what the Socratic method is all about and why you should carefully choose your study group members. Even though this movie was made nearly 20 years ago, it still rings true and feels current. John Houseman gives a terrific performance as the terrifying Professor Kingsfield. An absolutely outstanding movie!
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Do Hippies Dream of Good Grades?
tieman6413 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"The Paper Chase" charts the relationship between James Hart, a hard working student in his first year at Harvard Law School, and Professor Kingsfield, an imposing teacher who both terrifies and fascinates Hart.

The film offers nice ambiance – quiet study halls, ancient academic buildings, dimly lit student accommodations, tense classrooms and study groups – and so for anyone who has attended a prestigious university, the film has a certain charm. This is academia as pure romance; campus as a fantasy-land of character building, imparted wisdom, young love and tough life lessons.

Mostly, though, it's the film's distinctly 1970s vibe which really elevates things. Like most Hollywood films of the era, "The Paper Chase" borrows liberally from New Wave and Neorealist movements, lending the film a tone which oozes an air of relaxed realism. Its cast, with their 70s moustaches, bell-bottoms and big hair, also convey a sort of anti-establishment vibe, which most Hollywood movies at the time possessed.

The film is also strange in the way that it manages to both romanticise Harvard and be "against" Harvard types. As the film unfolds, Hart goes from a kid killing himself chasing paper ("paper chase" literally means chasing grades, knowledge, money, status, approval etc), to a kid who realises that external approval ultimately does not define who he is, what he knows or what he's worth.

The film is too ambiguous (or confused) to be accepted as a simple pro-hippie "middle finger to paper chasers" flick, though. Professor Kingsfield may be the typical stern father figure who rules with an iron fist only because he "wants what's best" for his boys, but there is also a sense that Kingsfield is himself a man resigned from "the paper chase". That it is Hart (and the Professor's disgruntled daughter) who is really projecting an authoritarian image onto Kingsfield, when in fact the elderly man really is, in his own way, himself a sort of anti-authoritarian figure, in possession of very strong values. What the film offers is thus something slightly different to other anti-establishment, counterculture movies of the time. It's not a matter of "sticking it to the man", but recognising that "the man" (in this case, the authoritarian Kingsfield) is demonized only because "man" is fundamentally unable to define himself unless he places himself in opposition to others.

8.5/10 – An excellent film, its appealing atmosphere making up for its failures as a romance or message movie. Worth two viewings.
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Graduate school exposed
MiguelMoniz28 September 2001
I cant say this movie is anything at all like law school, but I have been in a PhD program for seven years and I know this: The Paper Chase is far and away the most accurate representation of the first year of graduate school as depicted in film. Not there are really *any* depictions of graduate school in film, at least this one gets it right. The students at once detest and seek approval from a professor who cares very little about whether or not they make it. They must rely on one another to get through the year but in the end it is up to each one as individuals whether or not they succeed and go on, or even if they want to continue. Some may knock what might appear to be a cliched cast of first year law students(not unlike a World War II movie) including the arrogant one, the kooky one, the rich guy, the brainy one, the selfish one, the self doubting one--but honest, all of these stereotypes exist in every first year grad program in every department across the country.

If you think you want to go to grad school, this movie may (and hopefully will) cure you.
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9/10
This was one of the great films of 1973,and it shows in grand detail.
rcj536517 December 2004
The year was 1973. The top ten films of that year were sure fire Oscar contenders and some were one of the highest grossing pictures of that year. The Best Pictures of 1973 were "American Graffiti","The Sting", "The Exorcist","Save The Tiger","Cries and Whispers","Paper Moon", "Cinderella Liberty","The Way We Were","Papillon","Serpico","The Last Detail","A Touch Of Class",not to mention the several movies that shattered the box office receipts that were the best of the genre,the action flick/marital arts adventure smash hit "Enter The Dragon",and the Southern crime drama "Walking Tall",and the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar". The movie that took home the statues that year was "The Sting",which won seven Oscars including The Best Picture of that year,1973.

And the one movie that defined a generation,even some who have never seen it,it is still one breathtaking piece of cinematic work,and even 30 years after its release,it still has that impact,and that motion picture,"The Paper Chase" still holds that stance to this day. This was a film that had some great performances,literate screen writing,sensitive direction and handsome production. This was a tale of a young law school student from Minnesota,in his first year of Law at Harvard,is confused by his professional calling versus his inner evolution as a human being,may seemed a bit timeless yet dated,but instead goes into the vortex of his experiences as a student as he goes through the motions here,which gets the audience a series of sideways though entertaining of the thespian declamations. James Bridges directs his own adaptation of the novel by Jay Osborn. Jr. But the performances here are sensational,with Timothy Bottoms,who is excellent as the puzzled law student,Lindsay Wagner as the girl who plays not only his love interest,but is the daughter of a tyrannical college professor. But the one who steals the show is John Houseman,who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1973 gives a outstanding performance as a hard-nosed but urbane law professor. A man who looms over students like a quietly arrogant Goliath. The three players here constitute the pervading plot triangle that gives the picture its intensity-Houseman as the classroom dictator,Bottoms the uncertain supplicant,and Wagner,who plays Houseman's daughter. This is a film that in some places,particularly on college campuses in shown as a midnight movie for student and it is available on video for those who really want to know what the experiences of being a law student is really like. A must see. It is to note,that Houseman later replayed his role of the college professor in a much-respected and Emmy nominated television series based on "The Paper Chase",which ran for six years on television.
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8/10
A great movie, especially for those considering law school
tripleo12 August 2003
A lot of what this movie contains jibes with the exact things I've been researching in my quest to figure out if I'd like to try law school. Socratic Method, Case book studies, study groups, 1st year hell, Finals Uber-crunch time...and the lack of a life outside of law school. The romantic element adds a nice touch and serves as a necessary plot line to keep this from becoming just a boring law school trials and tribulations flick. It is actually relevant as it addresses the issue of maintaining relationships while in the midst of pursuing what is, for many, a lifelong dream in one of the most rigorous programs of study existing in post graduate education.

Keep in mind, however, that this IS just a movie. I can see this movie discouraging 90% of potential law school students from giving it a try. The main "antagonist" is a BEAR of a professor who is legendary for his role in humiliating students in class. At one point, he gives the movie's main character a dime as he says "Here's a dime. Now go call your mother and tell her that there is serious doubt that you will ever become a lawyer."

This film is almost worth giving a look-see just for the dated 70's hairdo's alone. Keep an eye out for the character by the name of Bell. So obnoxious and pompous you love him. The Paper Chase is a classic which needs to be seen by all.
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Can You Dig It?
fandangonoir16 October 2000
I saw this on an early VHS video transfer that was just awful. I then saw it years later on TCM in widescreen DVD format and was blown away by all I'd missed on that c****y video version. This is a first rate drama of a harried Harvard law student. Make sure you see this in widescreen so you can get the full effect of the wonderful scenes like the one where Hart and his buddy sneak into the upstairs library with the glass lighted floor to sneak a peek at Kingsfield's law student notes. I especially liked the way director James Bridges reflected the lighted floor off of Hart's glasses. A very nice touch from an underrated director. No car chases, no action sequences, no over the top plots, just a simple character driven story set in the beautiful Harvard law school. This is what great filmmaking is all about.
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8/10
How much are you willing to sacrifice?
Tequila-1816 September 1999
As hard as it is to believe, this film makes studying exciting. The Paper Chase shows the difficulty of a first year law student. The endless studying sessions are followed by frustrating classroom encounters. The point of this film is that to succeed one must not sellout their ideals. People are changed by their experiences in this film. To win, one must place perspective on the pursuit of academic goals. Are good grades worth sacrificing love and friendship? Is flunking out truly the end of the world? At the end of the film Hart has come to realize that he has been just chasing after a paper diploma.
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6/10
The craziness of the first-year law student...
moonspinner5520 January 2007
Timothy Bottoms battles through his first year at Harvard Law School, attempting to stay one step ahead of his no-nonsense professor, but inadvertently falling for the instructor's comely daughter (Lindsay Wagner, pre-"Bionic Woman"). Director/screenwriter James Bridges adapted the script from John Jay Osborn, Jr.'s book, and does a pretty good job realizing the many pressures of academia. Bridges was the perfect director to work in 1970s cinema, and, with Gordon Willis' cinematography, he brings a gritty yet unshowy style to the movie that looks good without ever seeming pretentious. On the other hand, there's nothing very colorful about lectures or study groups no matter how polished the handling. Certainly worth-seeing for the acting alone, with John Houseman giving an Oscar-winning supporting performance (he was later tapped to star in the television spin-off). **1/2 from ****
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9/10
Excellent film about law student facing difficult professor.
invinoveritas113 June 2002
This is an excellent film, not just because it is well written, cast, directed, and edited, but, more importantly, because of its message, which for me, supersedes the plot line in pointing out how important educators/teachers can be for us for the rest of our lives. One may not like a particular professor/teacher, but that professor/teacher may have a very special effect on us as we develop into who we ultimately become. The possible reasons are diverse, such as honesty, pushing us to our intellectual limits, which no one has done previously, integrity,encouraging us when such meaningful encouragement has not previously been perceived, etc. Seeing this film reminded me of a select few educators from high school, college, and graduate school whose effects are still felt and appreciated.
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8/10
This movie seemed to validate my life
rlcsljo27 December 2000
I had dropped out of Harvard Law school in 1969, not because of a girl, but because I wanted to see life before I saw Vietnam. I later found out about the Marine Reserves and avoided Vietnam, but I had always wondered if I had made a BIG mistake (I did have a successful career in data processing, however).

When I saw this film, I immediately knew I had made the right choice. Most of my professors were just blustering blowhards who were trying as much to intimidate me as teach me (Kingsfield must have taken lessons from one professor of mine in particular, although Houseman was not half as intimidating as he was!).

Hart's realization that experience is almost as important as education( although sometimes not as lucrative) was a turning point in my life, and I have never looked back.

Not enough credit is given to Lindsay Wagner in without a doubt what was her best performance--brava!
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9/10
Gets the Adrenaline Going
schmuck2113 April 2005
As a student who is finishing his first year of law school, I had to hear what all the fuss was about. So, I ordered the DVD (I couldn't rent it anywhere), sat back and watched.

The opening sequence: PRICELESS. . . and utterly realistic. My adrenaline immediately began to flow when Professor Kingsley, within the first minutes of the first day, scanned the class roster and called on the movie's protagonist, Hart, to discuss the grandfather contract's case of Hawkins v. McGee. I empathized with Hart entirely as on the first day of my first law school class, I too was called on to discuss the very first case of my property class - what an experience that was! I now look back upon that day with a smile, but at the time, like Hart, I felt uneasy to my stomach immediately thereafter.

I recommend this movie to just about anybody. It is very earthy, with a decent musical score, and has decent drama intertwined with some comic relief. . . . "Good luck on your final exam. You will need it." This movie, however, will hit home I'm sure with anybody who currently attends law school, or anybody who has entered the profession already. I have recommended to friends of mine who entertain the possibility of attending law school, to give them an idea about what roughly to expect.

While the Paper Chase does provide a bit of an extreme view of the trials and tribulations of law school on various levels, it is on point. The studying, the anxiety, the bickering within the study groups, the outlines, the competition - it's all there.

9/10.
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Best Close up of Life in Academia
corrupt20030 March 2004
This movei shows how hard people really work everyday in college or postgraduate school to make something of themselves. I went to University of Michigan, and I saw how hard people were really working to make the grade. Watching the film made me rememeber a lot of the stress I went through, even rememebring times I wanted to leave, because I had trouble with the exams or having arrogant jackass profs. I'm now in graduate school here at Rochester, and I am trying very hard to make the grade and establish myself as a chemist. I may not have gone to Harvard, but what you see in the paper chase, you can see at most renowned academic institutions.

Watching Paper Chase now reminds me of how hard i need to work to succeed in grad school...and also how getting a girlfriend can wait.
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6/10
The Socratic Method
thinker169118 June 2007
In America, there are only a handful of prestigious school which when mentioned, acquire the status of sacred centers of learning. Harvard Law school is one of those. In this film a young, naive, Midwestern, farm boy, James T. Hart, (Timothy Bottoms) enters with all the expectations of a wide-eyed innocent opening a present. His goal is to eventually graduate with all the honors associated with the prestigious school. But like running directly into a plate glass window, Hart discovers that acquiring said distinction is to be had only with diligence, hard work and a successful Socratic encounter with a no-nonsense professor, one, Charles W. Kingsfield Jr. (John Houseman who is superior in this role) To his credit, Hart accepts his quick losses with a determination, never to repeat his mistakes. Along the way, he meets Susan, (Lindsay Wagner) a major distraction, and unbeknown to him the professor's daughter. The film is quite interesting while in the arena of legalities and with a troublesome study group. However, his romantic interludes serve only to obstruct his personal ambitions to get his life "organized." Graham Beckel plays Franklin Ford III, Kevin Brooks is James Naughton and Edward Herrmann is Thomas Craig Anderson, all members of his circle of learning. A good film depicting academic life on the grounds of Harvard. ****
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8/10
Dated but interesting character studies
cmac_2522 October 2004
WARNING - this review attempts to explain the meaning of the movie which helps make sense of the ending - you may not want to read it until you've seen the movie! On the other hand, after reading this you may want to see it again.

I recommend this movie and give it an 8.25 - most people will find it very watchable, some won't care for it.

This movie was a puzzle to me for years. I really liked it but didn't get it - the ending never seemed to work. Somewhere along the road the light went on.

On the entertaining level, the character studies are good. There really were people like Hart at school, as well as the rest of the student characters in the movie. Houseman was especially entertaining as the "Professor". His character still holds up, which is what makes his acting performance so good. Lindsey Wagner has a role similar in style to that as well. Both Houseman's and Wagner's roles are more caricatures than character. Bottoms and the rest of the actors are filling roles that are more realistic, which is one reason why they may or may not stand up to time, be misunderstood and loose some freshness 30 years later. Hippy society is gone - you just cannot capture the emotions, feelings, and personal experiences of a time and have someone who was not there get the full experience of it. I related to Bottoms role when I first saw the movie but now it is a little dated, times have changed. One of the small, underlying themes of the movie is the culture clash of young vs. establishment. All the characters are rich, entertaining, well acted, directed, and filmed. The lighting and sets give a romanticism to the feel of the movie - ivy walls, beach scenes, comfortable houses. Overall, this is a solid piece on movie making.

One interesting scene was the hotel for the "big study". I remember how radical that scene was at the time - threatening the manager with "doper" stuff. That looses allot over time and seems out of place today, even a little awkward. It is surprising how well that scene worked when the movie was new - it was the perfect comic relief then. It, also, was a microcosm of one of the movies themes: young vs. establishment.

Here comes the part you may not want to read if you haven't seen the movie.

But the underlying meaning behind the movie is about a guy taking the next step toward adulthood. It is so well hidden behind all the other stuff going on in the movie the enormity of it gets missed - you might not realize it is the main theme. The movie isn't just entertaining - it is almost a documentary of the 19 to 20 year in a person's life. Bottoms character is no longer a high school teen, but is now at the beginning of the road to maturity. Each character that interplays with him represents the different paths he could take. Lindsey Wagner's character represents the soothing inner self, urging him on, helping him take those steps that most young people are reluctant to take, nurturing him. It is the childhood safety he is leaving. Houseman is his doubts, his challenges, the hard stuff we need to learn, a taste of the side of life where we take responsibility for ourselves - adulthood. The toughest thing about growth is it means change, something many people fear. Near the end, Lindsey asks the all-important question – can you stand on your own? - watch for that scene at the beach house, turns out it is the key to understanding the movie. He does the work, he prepares, he steps up to the challenge and in that he finds the toughest part is done. The last thing to do is take the test, which turns out to be easy. It is almost anti climatic, that scene is one of the shortest in the entire movie. On the surface, the "entertaining" part, that is what most of us thought the movie was all about - will he pass this course or not? But it turns out the movie was all about his growth. In the end he knows who he is and where he's going, that's the symbolism behind not looking at the grades - he already knows. The grade Houseman puts on his test is the confirmation that he knew he passed – you don't score that well on a test and not know it before you actually see it. I think the last scene, where the grades are all but ignored, was for the benefit of ending the 'entertaining' side of film and as a final gesture of the real theme.

The real end of the movie is the scene in the elevator. At this point he realizes what all the stuff that came before was about - it was the path to growing up. He knows inside that he passed. Houseman turned out to be a guide - tough but true - and has brought him through. He recognizes that and thanks him. He understands what role Houseman played in his life and now is ready to go on. For such a short scene it is really climatic - yet most of us didn't get it either. We thought it was about the callowness of Houseman's role. The point is his time 'test' is over - he is now "Mr. Hart".

At least that's how I see it
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A Good Film About Academe
Jakester16 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I offer 10 random observations about this watchable film. (Writing random observations is MUCH easier than writing a coherent review.)

1. Early in the film, Lindsay Wagner playfully bites her new boyfriend. This was quite a charged moment in 1973. Audiences gasped. Boys went home from seeing this picture and dreamed of being bitten by Wagner and/or a substitute. Girls tried this idea out. Is this perhaps the first time when a woman bites a man in an erotic way in a mainstream Hollywood film (i.e, other than in a vampire movie)? Has some student majoring in Film Studies possibly written a paper about bites in the movies? Today, Lindsays's bite is a "meh" moment with zero punch. Times change, eh.

2. Every good college in America has a Kingsfield or two or three on the faculty - i.e., a legendary prof who is the object of student obsession (i.e., a mixture of awe, love, fear, lust, lust for knowledge, etc). At Brown University in the 1970s and '80s it was Edward Beiser of the Poli Sci Department. Beiser was at his peak in 1973, and more than one person on the Brown campus speculated about whether or not he had influenced the Kingsfield portrayal. (Highly doubtful that he did, but the possibility was a major topic of conversation in Hegeman Dormitory over pizza from Domino's and Michelob beer.)

3. Check out the hair in this film! OMG! Lots of hair! This is exactly how people wore their hair circa the early '70s. Ford's hair is epic. Hart's hair is long throughout, but seems to change subtly in appearance several times, possibly reflecting some of his internal struggle to come to grips with his conflicts about life, love, ambition, being human.

4. There's a light seasoning of things nautical in the film: Kingsfield's ship model. His ship painting. The captain's chairs used by the study group. I have no idea if this has any meaning; probably not. I mainly mention it because I love captain's chairs and these examples are first-rate (to use a nautical term). BTW, I believe Hart should have knocked over Kingsfield's ship model during his intimate encounter in the study. This would have given him the opportunity to try, desperately, to piece the thing together in 30 seconds after Kingsfield arrives home - a nice parallel to the impossibility of his weekend research assignment. Alternatively, I think Hart and Susan should have done the deed in the study and been caught in the middle of it. Or how about this: they do the deed in the study and knock over the ship's model. Kingsfield hears this as he walks in, glances toward the study, sighs mightily, and walks wearily up the stairs. He's heard that very sound before, he knows what's going on in there - Susan, dear Susan, is banging another of his students and knocking over his ship model.

5. The actress Regina Baff is perfect as Asheley Brooks, wife of the gifted-but-out-of-his-depth Brooks. Baff seems not to have had much of a career in film after this performance. Odd, that.

6. Which leads me to my next question, what the heck ever happened to Timothy Bottoms? I know he's made a lot of pictures over the years but his career never again remotely approached the fabulous heights of 1971 to '73 ("Last Picture Show" and this film). He perhaps entertained the thought that he could become the next James Stewart. (Tom Hanks got that gig.) Timothy! Timothy! Where on earth did you go? (And if you recognize THAT pop culture reference, you get major points from me.)

7. We learn that Kingsfield sat with the president of the United States at a Yale-Harvard football game. This moment is described by Susan while she and Hart romp through the mostly-empty stadium. The president is not named. Judging from various clues, it must have been John F. Kennedy. We are curious, as we watch, which president it was; we are left to our own devices to figure it out. I don't see why the script doesn't just say it. The script mentions Adlai Stevenson and shows a picture of Ike; why is it so shy about JFK?

8. At least two major films of the early '70s showed Ivy League-educated young folks rebelling against, but eventually joining, the Establishment - this one and "Love Story." (Admittedly there's some ambiguity about Hart's final decision but I think we know the path he'll choose.) Thus America reassured itself that its institutions would be perpetuated.

9. To follow-up on item (1) - 1972-73 was a peak for the sexual revolution. It was during the '70s that the ferment of the '60s reached down into the general population and affected the behavior of not merely a few elite people like the Beatles and the Grateful Dead but millions of people. This fact contributes to the quickness with which Susan beds Hart. The Susan role can really be seen as a pivotal one in the sexual liberation of women in the movies.

10. One of the central challenges of the script is, how much case law should we include? How much recitation of the law will the audience tolerate? I can well imagine long discussions among the filmmakers about this. I think they present exactly the right amount of law and exactly the right kind - i.e., a modest amount of juicy, interesting, and basic stuff.
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John Houseman steals the show...a winner! score: 8.5 (out of 10).
wildbill-235 October 2000
All I could say about "The Paper Chase" is that John Houseman STEALS THE SHOW IN A VERY CONVINCING PERFORMANCE as tough law school professor, Charles Kingsfield. It maybe one of the best supporting performances of 1970's cinema. Judge for yourself. The background of Harvard Law school student life is impressive as well as screenplay. Every post secondary scholar of higher learning should see this movie! After I did, I went out to buy a poster of Kingsfield for my college dorm!!!! Score: 8.5 (out of 10).
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The original pilot movie of the TV series
moviola-218 January 1999
It's funny but I recalled having seen a few episodes of the TV series that ensued much, much later and never saw the original until a few years ago on cable TV. This is it; the original has Timothy Bottoms as the main protagonist whereas the series keeps John Houseman as the Professor but changes the student cast (as far as I know). I think John Houseman does an outstanding job as Kingsfield. It seems tailored to his style for some reason. Rest of the cast do a good job at portraying their stereotypes; anybody who's been to college know that they exist. Overall, a pleasurably enjoyable movie: the drama is well communicated to the audience, you smile, feel the pressure of these young men's lives. Keep one for the library.
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7/10
A Guide For a First Year Law Student
Pepper Anne6 July 2004
Potential law school candidates, don't freak out when you see this movie. This movie wasn't quite like my first year of law school, but that's because I didn't go out of my way to spend all of my time trying to impress one (let alone any more) professors.

It is likely that your professors are not going to behave like total bastards as Sir John Houseman did in this movie as Timothy Bottom's contracts professor, since your teachers are obviously pretty willing to help you out and guide you through three very rigorous years of study. But, then again, law school is much different from other levels of education, and the first year is the hardest because you're being trained to think like a lawyer and get in touch with that part in your brain where you can critically analyze things. And, as this movie suggests, when you do feel yourself slipping and/or falling behind, do not suck up to your teacher or kid yourself that everything is alright. The point is to go into things with your head on straight. Think realistically and don't panic!

And yes, contract law is going to be one of the roughest first year courses.

The story here concerns a first-year student's trials and tribulations at Harvard law school. He seems to be running around in circles sometimes, trying too hard to stay on top of things. John Houseman plays his stubborn and defiant contracts law professor who he consistently butts heads with, especially when it comes to dating the guys daughter and trying so hard to impress him.

The story is actually pretty ridiculous. But then again, it would probably be pretty boring to watch an hour and half movie about a kid with his nose buried in the books as most first-year law students are. It is definitely worth a shot if you are considering law school, but don't freak out.
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10/10
The Prevailing Rules to Adulthood!!
dataconflossmoor18 October 2006
Naive and unassuming pipsqueak from the Midwest (Timothy Bottoms) goes off to an ivy league university, and, he is in for a rude awakening!! The aura of intellectual pretentiousness that an eastern law school flaunts around, becomes something that effortlessly obliterates Hart's idealistic and innocuous mid western demeanor in record time!! This movie is about decisions, decisions that are based on crystal clear reality!! Academia becomes fatiguing whether he wants it to be or not!! Hart (Timothy Bottoms) is hit over the head with the fact that law school transcends mandating adulthood, it now evokes the tenuous exuberance which correlates to an unprecedented personal challenge for him!! Hart (the student) is enamored with Professor Kingfield, his brilliance astounds him!! Coincidently, he is kind of seeing Professor Kingfield's daughter.. She points out to him time and time again that this diploma at the end of the rainbow concept is ludicrous.. This movie does not pair Hart with his professor's daughter for purposes of situational comedy; more to the point, it is for a comprehension of a full ideological perspective!! His relationship with her is not for comic relief, nor is it really about sex, more significantly, she acts as a succor for social enlightenment!!It is all pretty much laid out for Mr Hart: It does not matter whether he can understand Professor Kingfield, it does not matter if he passes or fails, and money does not necessarily matter either!! What matters is that Hart should get his head out of his rear end and decide whether or not he wants to become a lawyer!! "Paper Chase" is a very good film because it purports the essential concept about prevailing ground rules!!! College is not about precocious chicanery, it is about constructing your future, not just in terms of your career, but also, in terms of your fortitude as an adult! Ultimately, "Paper Chase" presented itself as one big acrimonious jeremiad!! Look at it this way, someone had to do it..Great acting!! Terrific Movie!! One more positive aspect to this film: How many movies make you think? Pondering the issue of what you plan to do and be in your life is, after all, very important!!! What is more important, however, is what your philosophical stamina enables you to prioritize effectively: Wouldn't you say so? "Paper Chase" points this out brilliantly!! The film "Paper Chase" possesses a saturated intellectual gratification which it provides for the movie audience to ruminate!! I give it five stars!!
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