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- For the 1924 silent film, see The Midnight Express (film).
French theatrical poster
|Directed by||Alan Parker|
|Produced by||Alan Marshall
|Written by||Oliver Stone|
|Story by||Billy Hayes (book)
William Hoffer (book)
Paul L. Smith
|Music by||Giorgio Moroder|
|Editing by||Gerry Hambling|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||121 minutes|
Midnight Express is a 1978 American/British film directed by Alan Parker and produced by David Puttnam. It is based on Billy Hayes' 1977 book Midnight Express and was adapted into the screenplay by Oliver Stone. It starred Brad Davis, Irene Miracle, Bo Hopkins, Paolo Bonacelli, Paul L. Smith, Randy Quaid, Norbert Weisser, Peter Jeffrey and John Hurt. Hayes was a young American student sent to a Turkish prison for trying to smuggle hashish out of Turkey. The movie deviates from the book's accounts of the story — especially in its portrayal of Turks — and some have criticized the movie version, including Billy Hayes himself. Later, both Stone and Hayes expressed their regret on how Turkish people were portrayed in the movie. The film's title is prison slang for an inmate's escape attempt. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rated the film "R".
On 6 October 1970, while on holiday in Istanbul, Turkey, American college student Billy Hayes straps 2kg of hashish blocks to his chest. While attempting to board a plane back to the United States with his girlfriend, Billy is arrested by Turkish police on high alert, due to fear of terrorist attacks. He is strip-searched, photographed and questioned. After a while, a shadowy American (who is never named, but is nicknamed 'Tex' by Billy due to his thick Texan accent) arrives, takes Billy to a police station, and translates for Billy for one of the detectives. On questioning, Billy tells them that he bought the hash from a taxicab driver, and offers to help the police track him down, in exchange for his release. Billy goes with the police to a nearby market and points out the cab driver, but when the police go to arrest the cabbie, Billy sees an opportunity and makes a run for it. He gets cornered in a building and is recaptured by the mysterious American.
During his first night in holding, Billy, freezing cold, sneaks out of his cell and steals a blanket. Later that night, he is rousted from his cell and brutally beaten by the chief of guards, Hamidou.
He wakes up a few days later in Sağmalcılar prison, surrounded by fellow western prisoners Jimmy (an American - in for stealing two candlesticks from a mosque) and Erich (a Swede, also serving a sentence for drug-smuggling) who help him to his feet. Jimmy tells Billy that the prison is a dangerous place for foreigners like themselves and that no-one can be trusted, not even the young children. Later, Billy is introduced to Max, an English heroin addict.
In the ensuing weeks following his arrest, Billy attempts to gain his release through the Turkish justice system. On the advice of Max, he hires a Turkish attorney, Yesil, who has a reputation for having successfully defended another prisoner also arrested with a large quantity of hashish. Billy’s father arrives from the United States and the two share an emotional reunion. The courtroom scene at Billy’s trial is disorienting to both father and son. as the prosecutor rapidly hurls accusations at Billy in Turkish. As the two ask their lawyer for an explanation, Yesil reassures them the remarks were just technical and not to worry, and that the judge likes him. The judge returns a verdict of 4 years in prison, angering the prosecutor and devastating Billy and his father. Yesil assures them it is an excellent outcome, and that Billy could have received a lifetime sentence for smuggling, a sentence the prosecutor was vehemently arguing for. Father and son retreat to a small holding area where they tearfully share their devastation. Billy is then hauled off to begin his sentence.
In the next several years, Billy settles into life as a prisoner in a strange and horrible place. He begins a close relationship with Erich, who is gay and wishes to consummate the relationship, but Billy refuses; shortly afterwards, Erich is released. Billy actually settles into some sense of normalcy, engaging in long conversations with Max, smoking the cheap and awful drugs sold in the prison by chief snitch and prison trustee Rifki, and counting the days until his release. Rifki is despised by all and routinely taunts the English speaking prisoners. Eighteen months before his release, Jimmy tries to get Max and Billy to go along with an escape plan. Billy refuses, essentially putting his faith in the justice system that is due to release him in 18 months. Jimmy tries on his own, but is caught, and severely beaten, nearly to death.
In 1974, 53 days before his original term in prison is to expire, Billy's sentence is overturned by the Turkish High Court in Ankara after a prosecution appeal (the prosecutor originally wished to have him found guilty of smuggling, and not possession), and he is ordered to serve at least a 30-year life term for his crime. His stay becomes a living hell: terrifying scenes of physical and mental torture follow one another, culminating in Billy having a breakdown and beating to near death his fellow prisoner Rifki, biting out his tongue in the process. Following this breakdown, he is sent to the prison's ward for the insane where he wanders in a daze among the other disturbed and catatonic prisoners. He meets fellow prisoner Ahmet, whilst participating in the regular inmate activity of walking in a circle around a pillar. Ahmet claims to be a philosopher from Oxford University and engages him in conversation to which Billy is unresponsive.
In 1975, Billy's girlfriend, Susan, comes to see him and is devastated at what has happened to him. He begs her to remove her top so he can see her bare breasts; she shows him her breasts and he masturbates in front of her. She tells him that he has to escape, or else he will die in there, and leaves him a scrapbook with money hidden inside as 'a picture of your good friend Mr. Franklin from the bank', hoping Billy can use it to help him escape. Her visit moves Billy strongly, and he begins to regain some of his senses. He says goodbye to Max, telling him not to die and to wait for Billy to come back for him. Billy attempts to bribe Hamidou to release him from the insane ward to the sanitorium. Instead, Hamidou takes a horrified Billy to the guards' quarters and begins to beat him. As Hamidou unclasps his belt buckle and trousers, Billy realizes he is going to be raped, and charges at Hamidou, who loses his balance due to his pants being entangled around his ankles. He staggers backwards against the wall and onto a coat hook that pierces the back of his neck killing him instantly. Billy approaches the guard's lifeless form cautiously, and retrieves his gun. He seizes the opportunity to escape by putting on a guard's uniform and managing to walk out of the front door. In the epilogue, it is explained that on the night of 14 October 1975, he successfully crossed the border to Greece, and arrived at Kennedy Airport three weeks later.
- Brad Davis as Billy Hayes
- Irene Miracle as Susan
- Bo Hopkins as "Tex"
- Paolo Bonacelli as Rifki
- Paul L. Smith as Hamidou
- Randy Quaid as Jimmy Booth
- Norbert Weisser as Erich
- John Hurt as Max
- Kevork Malikyan as the Prosecutor
- Yashaw Adem as the Airport police chief
- Mike Kellin as Mr. Hayes
- Franco Diogene as Yesil
- Michael Ensign as Stanley Daniels
- Gigi Ballista as the Judge
- Peter Jeffrey as Ahmet
Although the story is set largely in Turkey, the movie was filmed almost entirely at Fort Saint Elmo in Valletta, Malta, after permission to film in Istanbul was denied. Ending credits of the movie state: "Made entirely on location in Malta and recorded at EMI Studios, Borehamwood by Columbia Pictures Corporation Limited 19/23 Wells Street, London, W1 England."
The making of the film, I'm Healthy, I'm Alive, and I'm Free, was released in 1977.
Differences between the book and the film 
- In the movie, Billy Hayes is in Turkey with his girlfriend when he is arrested, whereas in the original story he is alone.
- The attempted rape scene was fictionalized; Billy never claimed to have suffered any sexual violence at the hands of his Turkish wardens. He did engage in consensual sex while in prison, but the film depicts Hayes gently rejecting the advances of a fellow prisoner.
- The scene where Billy attempts to escape from the Turkish police and is recaptured by 'Tex', the shadowy American agent, did not happen; 'Tex' was a real person Billy encountered after his arrest, who indeed pulled a gun on him, but that was when they were riding in the police car from the Istanbul airport to the police station after Billy attempted to sneak out of the car while it was stopped at a red traffic light. In the book's account, Tex drove Billy to the police station where he dropped him off, and Billy never saw him again. It was a Turkish policeman who translated for Billy during his interrogation with the Turkish detective.
- Although Billy did spend seventeen days in the prison's psychiatric hospital in 1972, Hayes never bit out anyone's tongue, which in the film led to him being committed to the section for the criminally insane.
- In the book's ending, Hayes was moved to another prison on an island from which he eventually escaped, by swimming across the lake and then traveling by foot as well as on a bus to Istanbul and then crossing the border into Greece. In the movie, this passage is replaced by a violent scene in which he unwittingly kills the head guard who is preparing to rape him. In reality, Hamidou, the chief guard, was killed in 1973 by a recently paroled prisoner, who spotted him drinking tea at a café outside the prison and shot him eight times.
|Midnight Express – Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by Giorgio Moroder|
|Released||October 6, 1978|
|Giorgio Moroder chronology|
- Chase – Giorgio Moroder (8:24)
- Love's Theme – Giorgio Moroder (5:33)
- Theme from Midnight Express (Instrumental) – Giorgio Moroder (4:39)
- Istanbul Blues (Vocal) – David Castle (3:17)
- The Wheel – Giorgio Moroder (2:24)
- Istanbul Opening – Giorgio Moroder (4:43)
- Cacophoney – Giorgio Moroder (2:58)
- Theme from Midnight Express (Vocal) – Chris Bennett (4:47)
Giorgio Moroder used the six notes corresponding to 'now you say you love me' from the song "Cry Me a River" to create part of the soundtrack.
Negative criticisms focused mainly on its unfavorable portrayal of Turkish people. In Mary Lee Settle's 1991 book Turkish Reflections, she writes, "The Turks I saw in Lawrence of Arabia and Midnight Express were like cartoon caricatures, compared to the people I had known and lived among for three of the happiest years of my life." When the Lights Go Down criticizes the film as well, saying, "This story could have happened in almost any country, but if Billy Hayes had planned to be arrested to get the maximum commercial benefit from it, where else could he get the advantages of a Turkish jail? Who wants to defend Turks? (They don’t even constitute enough of a movie market for Columbia Pictures to be concerned about how they are represented)". One reviewer writing for World Film Directors wrote, "Midnight Express is 'more violent, as a national hate-film than anything I can remember', 'a cultural form that narrows horizons, confirming the audience’s meanest fears and prejudices and resentments'".
David Denby of New York criticized the film as "merely anti-Turkish, and hardly a defense of prisoners' rights or a protest against prison conditions". Denby said also that all Turks in the movie – guardian or prisoner – were portrayed as "losers" and "swine" and that "without exception [all the Turks] are presented as degenerate, stupid slobs".
Turkish Cypriot film director Dervis Zaim wrote a thesis at Warwick University on the representation of Turks in the film, where he concluded that the one-dimensional portrayal of the Turks as "terrifying" and "brutal" served merely to reinforce the sensational outcome and was likely influenced by such factors as Orientalism and Capitalism.
Awards and nominations 
Midnight Express won Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Score (Giorgio Moroder) and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Stone). It was also nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (John Hurt), Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Picture.
An amateur interview with Hayes appeared on YouTube, recorded during the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, in which he described his experiences and expressed his disappointment with the film adaptation. In an article for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Hayes was reported as saying that the film "depicts all Turks as monsters."
When he visited Turkey in 2004, screenwriter Oliver Stone, who won an Academy Award for the film, made an apology for the portrayal of the Turkish people in the film. He "eventually apologised for tampering with the truth."
Alan Parker, Oliver Stone and Billy Hayes were invited to attend a special film screening with prisoners in the garden of an L-type prison in Döşemealtıas, Turkey as part of the 47th Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival in October 2010.
- "Midnight Express, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
- Smith, Helena (16 December 2004). "Stone sorry for Midnight Express". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 January 2012.
- Flinn, John (9 January 2004). "The real Billy Hayes regrets 'Midnight Express' cast all Turks in a bad light". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 14 January 2012.
- Ratings. MPAA.
- Midnight Express. Rotten Tomatoes.
- Mary Lee Settle (1991). Turkish Reflections. New York: Prentice Hall Press. ISBN 0-13-917675-6.
- Pauline Kael (1980). When the Lights Go Down. New York: Hall Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 0-03-042511-5.
- John Wakeman(ed) (1988). World Film Directors. New York: T.H. W. Wilson Co.
- Denby, D. (1978, October 16). One Touch of Mozart. New York Magazine, 11(42), 123.
- "Representation of the Turkish People in Midnight Express". Zaim, Dervis. Published in Örnek literary journal, 1994. A copy can be found at http://www.tallarmeniantale.com/MidExp-academic.htm
- "Festival de Cannes: Midnight Express". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-05-20.
- Part 1, Part 2
- "Interview with Billy Hayes about 'Midnight Express' on YouTube". Youtube.com. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
- "The real Billy Hayes regrets 'Midnight Express' cast all Turks in a bad light – Seattle Post Intelligencer". Seattlepi.com. 2004-01-10. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
- Walsh, Caspar. The 10 best prison films. The Observer. May 30, 2010
- "'Midnight Express' team to watch film with Turkish prisoners". Hürriyet Daily News. 2010-05-20. Retrieved 2010-07-31.
- Midnight Express at the Internet Movie Database
- Midnight Express truth revealed by Alinur (Part 1 – Part 2): Interview with Hayes about the movie at YouTube.
- Script of movie by Oliver Stone (pdf)