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Brooklyn Historical Society has a film series devoted to conspiracy thrillers

John Carpenter's cult favorite "They Live," starring "Rowdy"

John Carpenter's cult favorite "They Live," starring "Rowdy" Roddy Piper," will be screening at Brooklyn Historical Society's "These Films Cannot Be Trusted" film series. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo/AF archive

Fake news, false flags, deep state, Pizzagate — we haven’t been so obsessed with conspiracy theories since Elvis Presley “died.”

This month the Brooklyn Historical Society presents “These Films Cannot Be Trusted,” a weekly series of conspiracy thrillers, will explore this current climate of distrust, paranoia and topsy-turvy thinking.

Newsday film critic Rafer Guzmán will host the series, and here he explains his choice of films to survey.

‘The President’s Analyst’

James Coburn plays the title role in this 1967 satire about a shrink whose top-secret new gig puts a target on his back. His best hope for survival: Go off the grid with a band of hippies. This counterculture gem has a super-groovy vibe (look for “Eve of Destruction” singer Barry McGuire), but it’s also surprisingly prescient, poking fun at deep-state plots, government surveillance and subliminal messaging — all themes that would come to dominate thrillers for years to come. Critics dug it at the time, and it feels ripe for rediscovery today. Wednesday, Aug. 7.

‘Three Days of the Condor’

On a rainy workday, CIA researcher Joe Turner (Robert Redford) leaves his office for lunch and returns to find his colleagues murdered. Who would want to kill a bunch of bookworms? And why can Joe only trust a total stranger (Faye Dunaway)? Sydney Pollock’s 1975 film was initially conceived as mere entertainment, but the constant headlines of Watergate and CIA skulduggery seemed to soak into the production. The result is the gold standard of paranoid thrillers, a movie that nails its moment but feels as topical as the day it was released. James Grady, author of the film’s source-novel, will appear in person for a discussion after the screening. Aug. 14.

‘They Live’

In a soulless Los Angeles, an unnamed drifter (pro wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper) finds a pair of sunglasses that reveal the world for what it really is — an Orwellian dystopia controlled by space-aliens! Writer-director John Carpenter (“Escape From New York”) delivers a wild parody of conspiracy theories, yet his film ironically became one when white supremacists mistook it for a coded allegory. (Carpenter eventually disabused them on Twitter.) A modest hit in 1988, “They Live” went on to become a cult favorite. Its themes of class, wealth and consumerism make it particularly relevant today. Aug. 21.

These Films Cannot Be Trusted takes place at the Brooklyn Historical Society on Wednesdays from this week through Aug. 21, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $5. 128 Pierrepont St., Brooklyn. For tickets and information go to


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