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A surveillance expert uncovers a murder plot within a corrupt corporation.
In San Francisco, renowned surveillance expert Harry Caul and his recording engineers, Stan and Paul, tape the conversation of Mark and Ann as they walk through busy Union Square. Their circuitous route and the noisy public space complicate the assignment, and Harry must use three simultaneous tapes, each of which captures only a portion of the discussion. Harry reacts to Stan and Paul's curiosity about the purpose of the assignment by reminding them to simply get the job done. He returns to his sparse, impersonal apartment and is upset to discover that his landlady has left a gift for his birthday, thus obtaining personal information and bypassing his elaborate alarm system. He then spends the evening alone playing his saxophone. The next day, in his warehouse office, Harry synchronizes the three tapes in order to isolate Mark and Ann's voices from the surrounding sounds, and captures almost all of the innocuous-sounding conversation. At night, he visits his girl friend, Amy Fredericks, in the apartment he keeps for her. Although she is initially excited to see him, when he once again refuses to reveal any personal information, she tells him that she has seen him spying on her, and will no longer wait for him to visit her. The next morning, Harry brings the tape to Mr. C, the high-level businessman who has commissioned the recording. When Mr. C's assistant, Martin Stet, insists on taking the tape himself, a mistrustful Harry grabs it away and ignores Stet's warning not to get involved. After recognizing both Mark and Ann in the building's elevator, Harry returns to his office to listen to the tape again. Noticing an inaudible whisper, he uses specialized equipment to discern the words "He'd kill us if he got the chance." Stan once again asks for information about the assignment, and when an edgy Harry barks at him to keep his work impersonal, Stan stalks out. Later, Harry visits his church and confesses to a priest his fear that the tape will be used to hurt Mark and Ann. At a surveillance conference held the next day, Paul introduces Harry to business rival William P. "Bernie" Moran, for whom Stan is now working. Harry is terrified to see Stet following him, but later Stet reveals that he only wants to set up another meeting with Mr. C. After the conference, Harry invites Paul, Stan, Bernie and two women back to his office to drink. There, Bernie jealously pushes Harry to reveal how he accomplished his most famous job, a Washington, D.C. welfare scandal. When one of the women, Meredith, flirts with Harry and urges him to confide in her, he finally admits that he misses Amy. Later, Bernie tells the group how the welfare scandal resulted in the deaths of three people, and then, gloating, takes out a tape he has secretly made of Harry's conversation with Meredith. Harry explodes in anger and throws everyone out, but Meredith insists on staying. While he obsessively replays the tape, worried that innocent people will be hurt again, Meredith seduces him. Later, while sleeping, he dreams that he is revealing intimate details about his childhood to Ann, and when he awakens, Meredith and the tape are gone. Back at Harry's apartment, Stet calls on Harry's unlisted phone to warn him that he is being watched and should come to Mr. C's office for payment. There, Harry realizes that Ann is Mr. C's wife. Afraid of what Mr. C. will do to Ann, Harry remembers Mark's taped comment about an appointment at a hotel that afternoon, and rents the room next to theirs. Soon, he hears an argument between Mr. C. and Ann and then sees a bloody handprint on the adjoining balcony window. Horrified, he tries to escape the noise of the argument by turning up the television and burying himself under the bedcovers. Hours later, he rises and breaks into their room. Everything appears perfectly clean until he flushes the toilet, which overflows, flooding the room with blood. Harry races to Mr. C's office where reporters are asking Ann about her inheritance now that Mr. C. has died, supposedly in a car crash. Just as Harry recalls the comment "He'd kill us if he got the chance" and realizes that Mark and Ann were not in danger, but rather planning a murder, Stet notes his presence. When Harry returns to his apartment, Stet calls to warn him that he is being watched. Undone by the thought of his secured home being breached, Harry searches for bugging devices, shredding the curtains, disconnecting the wiring and pulling up the floorboards until his apartment is destroyed. Finally, Harry is left alone, playing his saxophone amid the wreckage.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||PG||Premiere Info:||Los Angeles opening: 7 Apr 1974|
|Release Date:||1974||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Paramount Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||The Directors Company|
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The small, intelligently-written and paced gem from director Coppola. A surveillance expert uncovers a murder plot in a taped conversation he was hired to...
Christine in GA 2013-10-31
Personally, I think this is Gene Hackman's best performance and he should have been nominated for an Oscar. Great movie.
One of the best 70's movies.And one of my all-time fave Hackman movies