The Conversation

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The Conversation is a 1974 film about a paranoid and personally-secretive surveillance expert who has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will be murdered.

Written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
Harry Caul will go anywhere to bug a private conversation. taglines

Harry Caul

  • [on the phone] This is Harry Caul from upstairs...Yes, well, thank you very much. Thank you...You're really very nice, yes, but...what I wanted to talk to you about was how did you put it in the apartment?...What about the alarm? Oh you did?...I thought I had the only key...well, what emergency could possibly...all right, yes. You see, I would be perfectly happy to have all my personal things burned up in a fire because I don't have anything personal. Nothing of value. No, nothing personal except my keys, you see, which I really would like to have the only copy of, Mrs. Evangelista. As of today, my mail will go to a post-office box with a combination on it and no keys. Goodbye.
  • [in a confessional] Bless me Father for I have sinned. Three months since my last confession. I - these are my sins. Took the Lord's name in vain on several occasions. On a number of occasions, I've taken newspapers from the racks without paying for them. I've - deliberately taken pleasure in impure thoughts. I've been involved in some work that I think, I think will be used to hurt these two young people. It's happened to me before. People were hurt because of my work and I'm afraid it could happen again and I'm - I was in no way responsible. I'm not responsible. For these and all my sins of my past life, I am heartily sorry.
  • [to an exhibitor] I build all my own equipment. Thank you.
  • It had nothin' to do with me, I mean, I just turned in the tapes...What they do with the tapes is their own business.
  • Oh God, what I have done. I have to destroy the tapes. It cannot happen again. The family was murdered because of me. Oh God, no protection. I can find them wherever they go, and I can hear them.
  • [to Ann, in a dream] Listen, my name is Harry Caul. Can you hear me? Don't be afraid. I know you don't know who I am, but I know you. There isn't much to say about myself. I - was very sick when I was a boy. I was paralyzed in my left arm and my left leg. I couldn't walk for six months. One doctor said that I'd probably never walk again. My mother used to lower me into a hot bath - it was therapy. One time the doorbell rang and she went down to answer it. I started sliding down. I could feel the water starting to come up to my chin, up to my nose, and when I woke up, my body was all greasy from the holy oil she put on my body. I remember being disappointed I survived. When I was five, my father introduced me to a friend of his, and for no reason at all, I hit him right in the stomach with all my strength. He died a year later. He'll kill ya if he gets the chance. I'm not afraid of death but I am afraid of murder.

Martin Stett

  • Now look, don't get involved in this, Mr. Caul. Those tapes are dangerous. You heard 'em. You know what I mean. Someone may get hurt. Mr. Caul, be careful.
  • [to Harry] I'm not following you, I'm looking for you. There's a big difference.
  • [to Harry] We want you to deliver the tapes on Sunday, one o'clock. The Director will be there. He'll accept the tapes from you, in person.
  • [to Harry] You know that means we've been watching you. We have the tapes. They are perfectly safe. The Director was very anxious to hear them as soon as possible and you seemed to be, I don't know, disturbed. I couldn't take the chance that you might destroy our tapes. You understand, don't you, Mr Caul? Our tapes have nothing to do with you. Why don't you come over now and bring the photographs? The Director's here and he's prepared to pay you in full.
  • We know that you know, Mr. Caul. For your own sake, don't get involved any further. We'll be listening to you.

Stanley "Stan"

  • There isn't all that much you ever let me in on, Harry. You won't show me anything. You keep it all to yourself. You know damn well you will.
  • This is a quad in the center of the city. These are steps coming in here, benches all around. Now it's 12 noon, which means that it's lunchtime for all the people that work in these offices around here. Okay, the people are walking, talking, having lunch and it's crowded. Two people are constantly moving in circles in and out of the crowd. We don't know whether they'll sit down or what. They're convinced that they can't be recorded because they're in a crowd and constantly moving. They're the target. Now the assignment is to get everything they say. How would you do it?

William P. "Bernie" Moran

  • There is no moment between human beings that I cannot record and there is no method that I cannot figure out. I could figure out any of Harry's schemes, right?
  • I've gotta give credit where credit is due, right? I mean abracadabra, Harry. You see, I'm number two Harry. I have to try harder. The bugger got bugged, huh?


  • The Director: I'm tired of this lying, all right. I'm tired of lies!


Stanley: Who's interested in these two, anyway?
Harry: I don't know for sure.
Stanley: The Justice Department?
Harry: No.
Stanley: Then I figure it must be the Infernal Revenue. Their tapes always put me to sleep.
Harry: Since when are you here to be entertained?
Stanley: Sometimes it's nice to know what they're talking about.
Harry: I don't care what they're talking about. All I want is a nice fat recording.

Ann: I don't know what I'm gonna get him for Christmas yet. He's already got everything.
Mark: He doesn't need anything anymore.
Ann: Well, I haven't decided what I'm gonna get you yet.
Mark: Better start looking.
Ann: What about me?
Mark: You'll see.
Ann: A lot of fun you are. You're supposed to tease me, give me hints, make me guess, you know.
Mark: Does it bother you?
Ann: What?
Mark: Walking around in circles.
Ann: [spotting a derelict on the park bench] Oh look, that's terrible.
Mark: He's not hurting anyone.
Ann: Neither are we. Oh God. Every time I see one of those old guys, I-I always think the same thing.
Mark: What do you think?
Ann: I always think that he was once somebody's baby boy...and he had a mother and a father who loved him. And now, there he is, half-dead on a park bench and where is his mother or his father or his uncles now? Anyway, that's what I always think.
Mark: I always think of how when they had the newspaper strike in New York, more of those old guys died. Fifty of them frozen died in one night.
Ann: Just because there were no newspapers?
Mark: Really.

Amy: Does something special happen between us on your birthday?
Harry: Like what?
Amy: Something personal.
Harry: What?
Amy: Like, uhm, telling me about yourself. Your secrets?
Harry: I don't have any secrets.
Amy: I'm your secret. You do have secrets, Harry? I know you do. Sometimes you come over here and you don't tell me. Once I saw you up by the staircase, hiding and watching for a whole hour. You think you're gonna catch me at something, you know? I know when you come over. I can always tell. You have a certain way of opening up the door. You know, first the key goes in real quiet, and then the door comes open real fast, just like you think you're gonna catch me at something. Sometimes I even think you're listening to me when I'm talking on the telephone.
Harry: What are you talking about?
Amy: I don't know. I just feel it. Really, I do.

Amy: Where do you work, Harry?
Harry: Oh, in different places, different jobs. I'm kinda a musician. A free-lance musician.
Amy: Where do you live? And why can't I call you over there?
Harry: 'Cause I don't have a telephone.
Amy: Do you live alone?
Harry: Why are you asking me all these questions?
Amy: Because it's your birthday.
Harry: I don't want people to ask me a lot of questions.
Amy: I want to know you.
Harry: Yes, I know you want to. I don't feel like answering any more questions.

Harry: You never used to ask a lot of questions.
Amy: Harry, I was so happy when you came over tonight. When I heard you open up the door, my toes were dancing under the covers. But I don't think I'm gonna wait for you anymore.

Ann: Do you think we can do this?
Mark: I'm tired of drinking anyhow...I'm tired of mostly everything.
Ann: Tired of me?
Mark: Tired of you, but not today.

Stan: What the hell are they talkin' about, for Chrissake?!
Harry: Well, I'm gettin' fed up.
Stan: About what?
Harry: About your asking me questions all day long.
Stan: Jesus!
Harry: Don't say that.
Stan: Well, for Chrissakes!
Harry: Stan, don't say that again, please. Don't use that word in vain. It bothers me.
Stan: What's the matter, Harry?
Harry: Your work's getting sloppy. We'd have a much better track here if you'd paid more attention to the recording and less attention to what they were talking about.

Stan: Harry, if you filled me in a little bit, once in a while, did you ever think of that?
Harry: It has nothing to do with me and even less to do with you.
Stan: It's curiosity. Did you ever hear of that? It's just god-damned human nature.
Harry: Listen, if there's one sure-fire rule that I have learned in this business is that I don't know anything about human nature. I don't know anything about curiosity. That's not part of what I do. This is my business.

Ann: I love you.
Mark: We're spending too much time together here.
Ann: No, let's stay just a little longer.
Mark: He'd kill us if he got the chance.

Bernie: Let me tell you somethin' about Harry Caul...I know you heard this a thousand times, Harry, but let me say it again. Here's to Harry - the best bar none. I'll drink to that.
Harry: The best what?
Bernie: The best bugger on the West Coast.

Meredith: I want to hear all about you. Where are you from?
Harry: New York.
Meredith: I used to live in New York. At first, I worked as a receptionist and then I got promoted to secretary and then I was promoted to gal-Friday and special assistant to the Boss. Then I married him. Do you live far from here? Harry?
Harry: Are you still married?
Meredith: Oh, I don't know. Probably. Why then, maybe I am. The last thing I heard, he was trying to scrape up enough money to buy another hardware store. And I ended up out here in San Francisco - unemployed - which is the entire story of my life up until tonight. You don't like me very much, do you? You don't want to talk to me or anything.
Harry: I didn't say that.
Meredith: Something is on your mind. I wish you'd tell me. I do, I wish that, I wish that you'd feel that you could talk to me and, and that we could be friends, I mean, aside from all of this junk.
Harry: If you were a girl who waited for someone...
Meredith: You can trust me.
Harry: ...and you never really knew when he was gonna come to see you. You just lived in a room alone and you knew nothing about him. And if you loved him and were patient with him, and even though he didn't dare ever tell you anything about himself personally, even though he may have loved you, would you..would you, would you go back to him?
Meredith: How would I know - how would I know that he loved me?
Harry: You'd have no way of knowing.

Harry: You should have seen it, though. These new microphones are just incredible. They really - I couldn't really believe it myself. We were over two hundred yards away and it was absolutely readable. I broke in a couple newreel cameramen and, you should have been there, Bernie, it was really...
Lurleen: What did they do?
Harry: Well, they took the cross-hairs of the telescope and they lined it up on the mouths of the...
Lurleen: No, the boy and the girl, what did they do?
Harry: Oh, I don't know. But it was really beautiful. Really something to see.

Harry: It's no ordinary conversation. It makes me feel...something.
Meredith: Forget it, Harry. It's only a trick.
Harry: What?
Meredith: A job. You're not supposed to feel anything about it. You're just supposed to do it. That's all. Relax, honey.

Martin: Do you want to hear that again?
The Director: [angrily] You want it to be true!
Martin: No, I don't. I just want you to know whatever you need to know. That's all.


  • Harry Caul will go anywhere to bug a private conversation.
  • 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.


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