Midnight Express (1978)

R   |    |  Biography, Crime, Drama


Midnight Express (1978) Poster

Billy Hayes, an American college student, is caught smuggling drugs out of Turkey and thrown into prison.


7.6/10
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  • Alan Parker and David Puttnam in Midnight Express (1978)
  • Vic Tablian in Midnight Express (1978)
  • Brad Davis and Irene Miracle in Midnight Express (1978)
  • Alan Parker and Brad Davis in Midnight Express (1978)
  • Alan Parker and Brad Davis in Midnight Express (1978)
  • Alan Parker in Midnight Express (1978)

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User Reviews


4 February 2002 | Cinemanly
A Contemporary "Jude Suess"
Artistically, MIDNIGHT EXPRESS is quite well made... I do recall several media reports at the time of the film's release that led to contrary impressions, supporting the deliberate attempt by the filmmakers to do a hatchet job on the setting of this film. The first was Billy Hayes himself, when he first arrived on native soil, having pulled off his alleged escape; he said on TV, "I like the Turks...it's the prison I had a problem with" Easy to understand; few prisons are a joy ride, regardless of nation of origin. From this, I gathered he personally didn't have an animosity against the Turks, although MIDNIGHT EXPRESS goes out of its way to make everything negative about the country and culture. Only the "Western" characters are good and attractive, and the folks selected to play the Turks are corrupt, physically ugly and basically sub-human. The exterior scenes in Turkey itself have a grayish tint, implying the land is a hell-hole, and even the near-universally acclaimed cuisine gets a black eye.

The second thing from the (film's release) period I recall was a discussion on radio that claimed the prison Billy served time in was relatively modern, built in the mid-sixties... and not the Devil's Island PAPILLON setting depicted in the movie. (A 19th-Century British barracks in Malta was used for the prison.) Naturally, some artistic leeway is allowed here, since the movie's purpose is to paint a picture of a living nightmare.

I recall reading the book years ago, and when our hero got his unfair sentence, naturally he was in despair... but at that moment, he felt an almost gallant, resigned acceptance. In contrast, when Billy gave his courtroom speech in the movie (which certainly was a defining moment of the film's ill-naturedness... to quote part of the speech: "For a nation of pigs, it sure seems funny that you don't eat them! Jesus Christ forgave the bastards, but I can't! I hate! I hate you! I hate your nation! And I hate your people! And I f**k your sons and daughters because they're pigs! You're all pigs!"), the three ugly judges actually hung their heads in shame. I wonder if there's a courtroom in any nation that would permit such a prolonged and loud outburst.

The August 30th post mistakenly referred to Turkey as an Arab nation.... so the user must not have seen "Lawrence of Arabia," where the Arabs were the heroes and the Turks were the villains. It's interesting that in the rare Hollywood film where Arabs are portrayed "positively," Turks still come across as barbaric.

A Turkish-American friend has told me, contrary to what others here are thinking that the film couldn't really prejudice the viewer, that the film has achieved one of its purposes, to leave a sore, anti-Turkish taste in mouths. Keeping in mind that Americans are generally ignorant of the ways of many foreign nations, this film continues, even today, of being the only source of information most Americans have about Turkey. As cinematically effective and wonderfully made this film is, there's a disturbing side to MIDNIGHT EXPRESS that makes it mildly resemble a contemporary "Jude Suess," or THE ETERNAL JEW ("Der Ewige Jude").

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Executive Producer Peter Guber said of this movie: "We knew when we chose to make Midnight Express (1978), that we were tackling an explosive and controversial subject, but we were determined to do it as honestly as was humanly possible."


Quotes

Susan: Excuse me... Excuse me... Excuse me... Excuse me.
Susan: Nervous?
Billy Hayes: No.
Susan: Geez, I hate flying.
Billy Hayes: It's something I ate. I think I've been poisoned.
Susan: Or you're just excited about getting home.
Billy Hayes: No, I think it's the baklavas.
Susan: I told you not to eat 'em.
Billy Hayes: Look, I gotta ...


Goofs

When Susan goes to visit Bill, it's possible to see a crew member reflected in the glass.


Crazy Credits

The only opening titles are: Columbia Pictures presents a Casablanca FilmWorks production an Alan Parker film Midnight Express After this, the opening prologue text reads "The following is based on a true story. It began October 6, 1970 in Istanbul, Turkey."


Alternate Versions

With regard to commercial network, and standard cable showings of the movie, and in the 1980 American Columbia Pictures Home Entertainment red border clam shell VHS/Betamax: 1.) All swearing is dubbed with much tamer words, or in a few cases, skipped or silenced. 2.) The chicken being decapitated is normally not shown (not shown at all on the 1980 clamshell Betamax/VHS) when Billy makes a run for it leaving the Turkish Bazaar. 3.) Billy is shown fully nude during a strip-search after his arrest. Censored TV and 1980 clamshell Betamax/VHS prints delete all shots of his bare butt. Some prints omit Tex's line, "would you like to put your clothes on?" 4.) Susan exposing her breasts and Billy touching them when she comes to visit him and sees his horrifying, almost vegetative state is very skillfully cut on the American 1980 red border clam shell VHS/Betamax and all commercial TV prints. 5.) All the violence was replaced with old footage of people playing volleyball, a sport played in this movie, on the 1980 clamshell Betamax/VHS release. You would have to see the uncut movie to even realize that something was missing.


Soundtracks

Seven Gözlerim
(uncredited)
Performed by Biricik
(Starting train station scene)

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Biography | Crime | Drama | Thriller

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