Brad Davis in Midnight Express (1978)


(director: Alan Parker; screenwriters: Oliver Stone/book by William Hayes & William Hoffer; cinematographer: Michael Seresin; editor: Gerry Hambling; music: Giorgio Moroder; cast: Randy Quaid (Jimmy Booth), John Hurt (Max), Brad Davis (Billy Hayes), Mike Kellin (Mr. Hayes), Bo Hopkins (Tex), Paul Smith (Hamidou), Irene Miracle (Susan), Norbert Weisser (Erich); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: R; producer: David Puttnam/Alan Marshall; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; 1978-UK-in English, Maltese, French and Turkish)

The prison scenes are nightmarish and unforgettable.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Alan Parker(“The Life of David Gale”/”Angela’s Ashes”/”Evita”) solidly directs this fictionalized harrowing true story. It’s based on the memoir of William Hayes, written with the help of William Hoffer. Oliver Stone is the screenwriter.

It tells about the naive American college student Billy Hayes (Brad Davis), in 1970, caught at the Istanbul Airport smuggling a large amount of hashish strapped to his body out of Turkey. The tourist was imprisoned for thirty-five years, to be made an example of. The film sensationalizes all the sadistic horrors of prison life, with heavy homosexual exposure. It offers a sympathetic portrayal of a drug trafficker and a vicious stereotyping of the abusive Turkish jailers.

The episodic scenes are well-staged, the performance by Brad Davis is on the money and the excessive misuse of power by the authorities is striking.

Brad’s fellow convicts in the harsh prison camp are the American psycho (Randy Quaid), the longtime English druggie John Hurt and the gay prisoner played by Norbert Weisser.

The inmate’s girlfriend (Irene Miracle) and his concerned father (Mike Kellen) work feverishly to get him released, but keep running into obstacles. Eventually Billy is released after five years.

The prison scenes are nightmarish and unforgettable. But this film, because of its graphic violence, is not for everyone.