The Box - DiazRichard Kelly’s The Box opens today in the UK, you can read my review here, and to celebrate the 70s paranoia vibe we’re posting this look back at some of the greatest conspiracy/paranoia thrillers of that decade. There are some great films here, and The Box does its best to emulate this, so you might want to look into some of these when you’re done with Kelly’s latest.

Klute 1971

Strongly following the crime / investigation genre, this film tells the story of a conspiracy theory that may be a little more personal, a little more close to home. Realistic and gritty (it centres on a prostitute); it promises the keep fans of 70’s films on their edge of their seat. “˜Don’t be afraid…’

When laboratory engineer Tom Gruneman (Robert Mili) disappears, the only clue available to detective John Klute (Donald Sutherland) is an obscene letter written by Tom to a call-girl in New York called Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda). So in pursuit, Klute moves to the Big Apple and seeks out the mysterious Bree. At first their relationship is wary,with Bree seeing him as a man she can easily manipulate. However, as Klute’s activities begin to get dangerous, they realise that someone may be stalking Bree, and their bond of starts to grow. It is indeed a very simple storyline, but the simplest narratives are often the best…

Soylent Green 1973

This conspiracy theory, set in an almost post apocalyptic New York, has strong political and social undertones; the idea of the elite vs. the poor, and the police vs. the citizens. The masses are starving, poverty stricken and confined by law to the state of New York- where uprisings are numerous.

And the conspiracy? Its food based. Which makes for interesting viewing, given that we are not hugely far off the year the film is set in (2022), and today there are widespread issues with food production, ownership and pricing, especially in the United States. Modern day films like Food Inc and Supersize Me only serve to demonstrate the feelings of unease surrounding what we consume, so it is an issue we can all relate to. Many parallels could be drawn, based around the idea that those in at the top can feed us what they want.

This is the films central theme. The earth is in despair in the year 2022. There are no natural foods, vegetables or fruit left due to both global warming and overpopulation. Within New York, 40 million people are starving, and only one food sustains them- Soylent. This mysterious food comes in three different colours, green being the most nutritious. But when the prosperous president of the Soylent Company is murdered, and a detective begins to investigate, a secret discovery is made about the ingredients of Soylent Green.

The Parallax View 1974

The Parallax View follows a similar line as the modern Final Destination movies- apart from this isn’t deaths’ conspiracy, but one that is a lot more tricky to work out. In fact, the official line is that there is no conspiracy, just twelve people dead.

When Senator Charles Carroll was assassinated by a lone gunman who also died at the scene, that was, it seemed, the end of the story. Case closed. But in the several following years, six direct witnesses of the assassination – those that were featured in a published photograph – have themselves died, nothing seemingly tying these deaths together beyond the earlier event or deemed to be mysterious by authorities. However those four still surviving witnesses shown in the photograph, including television news reporter Lee Carter and Carroll’s political advisor Austin Tucker, fear for their lives. A reporter goes undercover in a race against time to unveil a conspiracy theory that extends far further than he ever imaged…

The Conversation 1974

Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a private surveillance expert in San Francisco, has been hired by a character called the Director to follow and record the actions of his wife, Ann (Cindy Williams), and her lover, Marc (Frederic Forrest). Caul is a secretive, almost paranoid individual, who alienates those around him with his mysterious ways. This same characteristic comes across on this case; he does not want to hand the surveillance tapes over to the Director least harm should come to Ann and her lover Marc.

Eventually however, the tapes end up in the directors hands, and fearing for the lives of Marc and Ann, Caul follows them to a hotel to watch out for them. What had been his job has suddenly become personal. Turns out they murderthe Director this night, out of fear for their lives.

So, all clear, so far a cheating couple get busted and kill the husband before he can kill them. But they also aren’t too happy about anyone knowing, which Caul of course does, because he is the master of surveillance. The great twist in this film is that the watcher and the listener becomes the watched and listened to. In a particularly climatic scene he demolishes his apartment upon realising that Marc and Anne “˜know he knows’, in the search for bug devices. Pretty strong message there, the hunter can so easily become the hunted.

Chinatown 1974

JJ ‘Jake’ Gittes is a private detective who seems to specialize in matrimonial cases. He is hired by Evelyn Mulwray when she suspects her husband Hollis, builder of the city’s water supply system, of having an affair. Gittes does what he does best and photographs him with a young girl but in the ensuing scandal, it seems he was hired by an impersonator and not the real Mrs. Mulwray. When Mr. Mulwray is found dead, Jake is plunged into a complex web of deceit involving murder, incest and municipal corruption all related to the city’s water supply.

All The Presidents Men 1976

Captivating for its realism and factual account of events, this film depicts the investigative journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post who uncovered the Watergate scandal, eventually leading to the resignation of President Nixon in 1972. The film focuses on the period from the break-in on June 17, 1972 to Nixon’s re-election in November later that year.

What’s  not to love about the tale of two very normal guys cracking such a massive government conspiracy cover-up? It’s the ideal David vs. Goliath story. Turns out that what they initially uncovered- the Watergate office break in- wasonly one small part of a much larger network of intelligence gathering activities, many of which were illegal. Brilliant stuff, better yet because it’s all true.

Three Days Of The Condor 1976

This movie is a typical tale of wrong guy, wrong place. Popping out for lunch one day saves him has life, as upon his return he discovers all his colleagues have been shot. Okay, so he does work for the CIA, but as he explains, “˜I’m not a spy, I just read books’. So suddenly, Condor, a mild mannered desk based academic finds himself in the middle of a lot of trouble.

He calls his superior and asks for someone to bring him in. But as is often the case with these type of plots, the one who is sent to save you actually tries to kill you, which is exactly what happens to Condor. He does manage to escape, but panics and kidnaps a women, forcing her to shelter him until he can get his head together. It all gets quite exciting here, as not only does he fall in love with her, but the CIA turn up at her house and try to kill them both. Exciting!

Capricorn One 1977

This film follows a similar pattern to All The President’s Men; the powers that be try and cover something up and an investigative journalist smells a rat. Apart from, despite what some “˜the moon landing was a hoax’ theorists may tell you, this is not based on true events.

The story begins with three astronauts heading out to space in a mission to mars. Literally seconds before takeover however, there is a problem and the astronauts are told to get off the plane, which then takes off without them. Against their will they are shipped to a secret destination to lead the public to believe that there are on mars, when in fact the mission was a failure.

Other the many months of the mission, the astronauts send broadcasts to Earth on their progress and all goes well until their space capsule burns up on re-entry. They soon realize that the only way for the hoax to be maintained is for them to die. So for NASA to maintain the deceit they began to hunt down the astronauts, who are now making desperate attempts to escape their captors. Meanwhile the reporter is hot on the trail of it all.

The Boys From Brazil 1978

The Boys From Brazil is a more sinister and serious film on many levels. It uses the sensitive subject of Nazism to tell a story about death, murder, mistrust and conspiracy.

A young inexperienced Nazi Hunter stumbles into a secret SS meeting in 1970’s South America. Led by the infamous Doctor Josef Mengele, the chief doctor at Auschwitz, the plot of these Nazis is to resurrect Adolf Hitler and establish the Fourth Reich. This theory is dismissed by those that could have helped, and soon it is too late, as the Nazi hunter turns up dead.

Famed Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman gets hold of this information, investigates further, and establishes that Josef isalso sending his minions to assassinate 94 men over a two year period, just around the time they will turn 65 years of age. Puzzled at first by this scheme, he soon uncovers a terrible secret when he visits some of the dead men’s families and sees their sons

Winter Kills 1979

What seems a popular theme among these films is the idea of someone taking on the big guys against all odds. This film is no exception, as it charts the journey of Nick, as he investigates the assassination of President Timothy Keegan, his brother.

19 years after President Timothy Keegan was assassinated, Nick discovers a dying man claiming to have been the gunman. While trying to avoid his wealthy and domineering father’s attempts to control his actions, Nick follows the clues that have been handed to him. As he progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to discern the real trails from the dead ends, and increasing dangerous as unknown parties try to stop Nick from uncovering the truth.

What sets this film apart is its interesting perspective- looking at the quest for truth from the rich side of things. Nicks father owns more than is healthy and controls more yet. What is the truth, and how can Nick sort the truth from the lies to reveal who killed his brother?