Alcatraz is the most secure prison of its time. It is believed that no one can ever escape from it, until three daring men make a possible successful attempt at escaping from one of the most infamous prisons in the world.
On October 6, 1970 while boarding an international flight out of Istanbul Airport, American Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) is caught attempting to smuggle two kilos of hashish out of the country, the drugs strapped to his body. He is told that he will be released if he cooperates with the authorities in identifying the person who sold him the hashish. Billy's troubles really begin when after that assistance, he makes a run for it and is recaptured. He is initially sentenced to just over four years for possession, with no time for the more harsh crime of smuggling. The prison environment is inhospitable in every sense, with a sadistic prison guard named Hamidou (Paul L. Smith) ruling the prison, he who relishes the mental and physical torture he inflicts on the prisoners for whatever reason. Told to trust no one, Billy does befriend a few of the other inmates, namely fellow American Jimmy Booth (Randy Quaid) (in for stealing two candlesticks from a mosque), a Swede named Erich (Norbert ...Written by
Mary Lee Settle says in her book "Turkish Reflections" (1991) that "The Turks I saw in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Midnight Express (1978) were like cartoon caricatures, compared to the people I had known, and lived among, for three of the happiest years of my life." See more »
Muslim prayer is depicted incorrectly. Muslim prayer has definite steps and rules, and there's always a leader to the prayer when more than two are praying. See more »
[Susan makes her way through a line at an airline checkpoint]
Excuse me... Excuse me... Excuse me... Excuse me.
[she reaches Billy in line]
Geez, I hate flying.
It's something I ate. I think I've been poisoned.
Or you're just excited about getting home.
No, I think it's the baklavas.
[...] See more »
The Columbia Pictures logo is played in complete silence. See more »
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. See more »
Midnight Express can be compared to the likes of Mississippi Burning, Schindler's List and Midnight Cowboy - people who see it love it or hate it - no in between and it inspires a great deal of conversation. I have never met anyone who has seen this film and does not carry a strong opinion of it one way or another.
I love it. I do not consider it a depiction of Turkish life or an accurate retelling of the whole truth. In fact, the truth of the William Hays story is deeply lost in this picture. I consider Midnight Express to be a primarily fictional prison drama, bases largely on real events. The bottom line is that it is a great film.
Politically, I am quite conservative and have a "don't do the crime if you can't do the time" attitude. I had very little sympathy for William Hays in this movie, a young American caught smuggling hash out of Turkey and imprisoned in an absolute hell-hole. Instead, I am fascinated by his adaptation to prison life, the politics among prisoners and officials, the relationship with Brad's family and lawyers and all the other aspects of the films.
The film is very gross, quite violent and filmed in a dark, depressing. atmospheric manner. It is not for the faint of heart or anyone looking for a pleasant experience.
If you are a Randy Quaid fan then Midnight Express is a must see. So much of Randy Quaid's fame arises from the ludicrous Vacation movies and Independence Day, his true talent is unappreciated. See this (an The Last Detail) if you are a Randy fan.
There is a completely unnecessary and inane scene in which the lead character delivers a speech in a Turkish court - cut this scene short and you have a perfect movie.
Midnight Express is controversial and though-provoking. I cannot guarantee that you will like it, but I can guarantee that it will make you think.
**** out of ****
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