In 1974, at about the time President Richard Nixon was resigning due to the Watergate scandal, director Francis Coppola released his haunting, compelling film about electronic surveillance, The Conversation. Centered within the lives of surveillance technicians and the powerful corporate officers who employed them, Coppola depicted a nightmare world: one fraught with the invisible threat of electronic spying at almost any place, at any time – including in public parks and inside private hotel rooms.
The film had a remarkable double twist at the end. The protagonist, played by Gene Hackman, has found out that, unbeknownst to him, the people who hired him used his work to stage a killing. In turn, they find out about his dangerous knowledge. The long last scene depicts Hackman literally dismantling his apartment, trying to find the microphone his murderous employers have placed in his room.
Coppola has said he never realized his film would play out against the backdrop of the Watergate scandal, which also had electronic surveillance at its center, this time politically, with the Republicans spying on the Democratic campaign headquarters for the 1972 presidential race.