MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. (1978) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. (1978) DIRECTED BY ALAN PARKER. SCRENPLAY BY OLIVER STONE. BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY BILLY HAYES.STARRING BRAD DAVIS, JOHN HURT, RANDY QUAID, NORBERT WEISSER, IRENE MIRACLE, BO HOPKINS, MIKE KELLIN AND PAUL L. SMITH.MUSIC BY GIORGIO MORODER.REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©I’ve always thought this prison drama based on a true story was an absolutely cracking film, and I still do, but it’s regarded by many as an exercise in racism and hate for its diabolical portrayal of Turkey and the Turkish people. The prison guards are seen as sadistic, lazy, inefficient brutes and the supposed upholders of the law as ignorant, prejudiced and corrupt beyond anything you can imagine.Also, some of the most eye-popping incidents in the film, which I probably shouldn’t mention for fear of spoilers, apparently never happened, and were added by the film-makers for dramatic effect. That might affect the way you see the film when you’re reflecting on it afterwards.The real Billy Hayes, who penned the book on which this film is based, was disappointed by the portrayal of Turkish people in the film and eventually, I believe, apologised for it to the Turkish nation.Having said that, it’s still a brilliant and iconic movie, and it catapulted the lead actor, Brad Davis, into international stardom, which was good for him. Everyone in the film gives a sterling performance, and there’s a fantastic electronic score by Giorgio Moroder. (Together in Electric Dreams, anyone…?)The film tells the story of Billy Hayes, an American college student who, in 1970, is arrested at a Turkish airport with 2kg of hashish strapped to his chest. Don’t worry, folks! We’re not dealing with a hardened drugs kingpin here. ‘I wuz only gonna sell it to my friends.’ Oh well, that’s all right, then. The Turkish guards are coming down heavy on drugs offenders, however, and Billy gets thrown in prison for four years, a sentence later changed to something much worse, for his trouble.The prison is so horrific, and Brad Davis as Billy so handsome and personable, that you’d very quickly forget that he wasn’t put there unjustly; there’s been no miscarriage of justice here. He has actually committed a crime here. And, even though the drug is hash and not heroin, it still might have ended up bringing untold misery to the families of the college kids to whom he sold it.Anyway, back to the horrific prison. Conditions are awful, and the savage brutality of the Turkish guards and their ‘trusties’ has to be seen to be believed. Hamidou, the gigantic head guard, is a veritable monster, the kind who’ll grind your bones to make his bread.On Billy’s first night under his care, Hamidou rapes him and savagely beats him for stealing a blanket. Poor Billy! He just can’t stop getting into trouble. Paul. L. Smith, an American-Israeli actor, is superb as the sadist with the two small sons whom he allows to witness his horrendous beating of four young boys. I wonder what a guy like that would be like as a husband and father. Don’t tell me there wouldn’t be violence at home behind closed doors…Whenever Hamidou heaves on stage, practically seething with anger and striding purposely towards the inmates with his big plank of wood (for beating!) in his hand, you just know someone’s gonna be in for a terrible whuppin’…Rifki, the guards’ trusty, or favoured prisoner, is sly, slimy, self-serving and a terrible snitch (all the s’s!), and Billy and his friends positively loathe him. Billy has formed a little sort of clique with another American, Randy Quaid as Jimmy, John Hurt as Max the Englishman and the German actor Nobert Weisser as Erich.Jimmy is a crazy hothead who keeps getting beaten half to death for his ill-advised escape attempts. Max is a fragile drug addict who loves his cat, and Erich is a pragmatic German who would like to have sex with Billy but Billy isn’t quite ready to cross that final barrier between his old life in America, when he had a pretty blonde girlfriend called Susan, and his new sexless one in a men’s prison in Turkey.I love the performance given by Mike Kellin as Billy’s Dad, who has been utterly destroyed by his son’s incarceration. He’s such a good dad and Billy himself is in bits for having put his old man to the trouble and expense of flying over from the United States to Turkey to see his son and consult with Billy’s lawyers. I always cry when Billy and his dad cry, it’s just too sad! Dad never seems to blame Billy for the whole thing, instead venting his vitriol on the head guard Hamidou, who doesn’t give two figs.I also love Ahmet, the perfect-English-speaker in the insane asylum played by English character actor Peter Jeffrey, and all his gobbledy-gook about ‘bad machines.’ Irene Miracle as Billy’s girlfriend Susan is good too, visiting Billy in all her clean unsulliedness when he looks like he’s been dragged backwards through the seven circles of Hell. That scene where Billy begs her to take off her top so he can see and touch her breasts through the glass is sad. Very sad. Look what he’s come to, it’s saying to us.Other stand-out scenes include the tongue-biting-out one, Billy’s speech from the docks in which he calls all Turkish people ‘pigs’ and the scene in which Hamidou, the feared head of the prison, accidentally hangs himself up on his own coat hook. It’s a real ‘ouch!’ moment.Brad Davis turns in a stunning not-quite-debut performance as Billy Hayes. It’s such a good sympathetic performance that, as I mentioned before, you tend to forget all about the crime that puts him in prison and just notice how bravely stoic he’s being in confinement and how awful the guards are who are keeping him there. It’s still a genuinely good, exciting and nail-bitingly tense film, though I daresay it did for the Turkish tourist industry what JAWS did for sea-swimming. Over and out…AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS. Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5ROHer new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:https://amzn.to/3ulKWkvHer debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/ Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Related
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