A paranoid, secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that the couple he is spying on will be murdered.
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3,154 ( 541)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 14 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Gene Hackman ... Harry Caul
John Cazale ... Stan
Allen Garfield ... Bernie Moran
Frederic Forrest ... Mark
Cindy Williams ... Ann
Michael Higgins ... Paul
Elizabeth MacRae ... Meredith (as Elizabeth Mac Rae)
Teri Garr ... Amy
Harrison Ford ... Martin Stett
Mark Wheeler ... Receptionist
Robert Shields ... The Mime
Phoebe Alexander Phoebe Alexander ... Lurleen
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Storyline

Harry Caul is a devout Catholic and a lover of jazz music who plays his saxophone while listening to his jazz records. He is a San Francisco-based electronic surveillance expert who owns and operates his own small surveillance business. He is renowned within the profession as being the best, one who designs and constructs his own surveillance equipment. He is an intensely private and solitary man in both his personal and professional life, which especially irks Stan, his business associate who often feels shut out of what is happening with their work. This privacy, which includes not letting anyone into his apartment and always telephoning his clients from pay phones is, in part, intended to control what happens around him. His and Stan's latest job (a difficult one) is to record the private discussion of a young couple meeting in crowded and noisy Union Square. The arrangement with his client, known only to him as "the director", is to provide the audio recording of the discussion ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Harry Caul is an invader of privacy. The best in the business. He can record any conversation between two people anywhere. So far, three people are dead because of him. See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During the party in the warehouse, Bernie Moran (Allen Garfield) brags that twelve years before, he had recorded the calls of an unnamed Presidential candidate, and may have determined who won the election. This presumably would have been the 1960 election, when John F. Kennedy narrowly won the election over Richard Nixon, who was at the time of the movie's production in the middle of his own taping scandal, known as Watergate. See more »

Goofs

When Caul is in Stett's office alone, he walks over to the desk and picks up one of Stett's wife's cookies. He smells it and puts it back in the dish and then looks through the telescope. When Stett returns, he hands Caul the money and takes the tapes. When the film cuts to a shot of Caul thinking about the arrangement, the cookie reappears. Caul puts this cookie back in the dish, too. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Passerby: Well, I want to go over to my place and start, you know, getting it on...
Ann: Oh, that's terrible.
Mark: Yeah. Do you ever, uh... ballet?
Ann: Be thankful. Do you have a quarter for them?
Mark: Yes, I do.
Ann: [gives it to street band]
Ann: What about me?
Mark: You'll see.
Ann: A lot of fun you are. You're supposed to tease me, give hints, make me guess, you know.
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Connections

Referenced in The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

When I Take My Sugar To Tea
(1931)
Music by Sammy Fain
Lyrics by Irving Kahal & Pierre Norman
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User Reviews

 
You Have To See This More Than Once
2 November 2005 | by ccthemovieman-1See all my reviews

This is one of those films I'm glad I gave a second chance because it got much better, and has continued getting better with each viewing (I've now seen it four times).

I know a few other people who watch this and ask, "What's the big deal?" Well, do what I did and give it another chance. Here's a tip: put on the English subtitles. It helps understand what is going on, as the taped conversations are often difficult to discern. Then, you might discover what I did: a fascinating character study, one that did not bore me as it had on the first viewing.

It's the study of a paranoid loner who is suffering a guilty conscience over the work he has done over the years, and what tragic consequences could happen with the latest project he's involved with. Without giving anything away, the loner's fears are realized in a shocking ending, but not in the way he imagined.

Gene Hackman, as always, does a super job of acting. He dominates the film as the main character, "Harry Caul." The topic matter - high-tech surveillance - was intriguing, too. After watching this film, I wondered what kind of surveillance tools are available now, 30 years after this film was made.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 April 1974 (Canada) See more »

Also Known As:

The Conversation See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,600,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$4,420,000

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$4,432,180
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono | Dolby Digital (restored version)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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