DVD Review: THE PAPER CHASE – Season One.

Shout! Factory
Release date: April 7, 2009
MSRP: $49.99

Stars: John Houseman, James Stephens, Tom Fitzsimmons, James Keane

James Stephens plays James Hart, a Minnesota farm boy that has been awarded a scholarship to an acclaimed law school (think Harvard). As one can imagine, life is a little different at law school than it was on the farm. Mr. Hart, overwhelmed but doing the best he can, finds himself a member of the 1-Ls, a group of fellow first year students that hope that there is strength (as well as wisdom and solace) in numbers.

They, along with everyone else, is terrified of Professor Kingsfield, a brilliant but demanding member of the facilty. Kingsfield, we are told, is the worlds authority on contracts and often advises the Supreme Court. His Contract Law class is both required and dreaded. If you survive the class, you will be better for it.

Hart agrees to outline the class for the 1-Ls and finds himself drawn to Kingsfield. He sees it as an opportunity to learn from a master, if only he can figure out how to connect with the tyrant.

The late John Houseman has a tricky job here, his character is feared by everyone, with an impressively hight level of arrogance and an unrelenting demand for perfection, but he also must show brilliance and even charisma so that we can understand why he is also appreciated and respected by many. He is stern and strict, but also fair. His course clearly is hell on earth, but the students are better for it. I have no problems understanding why some (Hart, for example) are drawn to him.

While Houseman certainly garnered most of the praise (and with good reason), the rest of the cast do a good job. I had no trouble seeing them as overwhelmed law students, most smart but lacking real world experience and often displaying a deer-in-the-headlights quality.
One issue I did have was a lack on continuity. I am not saying that each episode should have flowed into the next, but we are watching these students as the semester goes on. Why not let the characters, and their relationships, evolve as time goes on? We see characters appear for one ep and never return. It may not annoy others, but it certainly did get in my craw.

Video:
It would appear that no attempts at restoration. The image is not bad, especially considering it is over 30 years old, but it certainly shows it’s age. The colors are slightly faded and there are some noticeable scratches. But considering nobody has ever bothered to release TPC, one should take these issues with a grain of salt.

Audio:
Sound is not unlike the picture: Decent considering the age of the print, but some problems are present. Some episodes have problems with distortion and the dialogue is a bit fuzzy at times. Not so much that it prevents one from understanding things (which is good since the show is a dialogue based one), but one should be aware it is there if thinking about buying this set.

Extras:
None. It would have been nice to get some sort of round table or commentary track. Considering how much time has gone by. I think it might be interesting to hear how the actors now view this.
The Paper Chase in interesting and engaging. Mr. Houseman’s performance is top notch and makes this worth watching. Image and sound issues might bother those that demand perfection, the story and acting is something that will certainly be appreciated by many.

Order season one of The Paper Chase.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.