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Movie Review

Midnight Express

MPAA Rating: R for graphic violence, nudity, and language

Reviewed by: Ken James
STAFF WRITER

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Drama
Length:
2 hr.
Year of Release:
1978
USA Release:
_____
copyrighted by the distributor
Featuring: Brad Davis, Randy Quaid, John Hurt, Bo Hopkins, Irene Miracle, Paul L. Smith
Director: Alan Parker
Producer: Alan Marshall, David Puttnam
Distributor: _____

“Midnight Express” is the true story of Billy Hayes (played by Brad Davis), an American tourist visiting predominately Muslim Turkey who makes the nasty mistake of trying to smuggle several kilos of hashish out of the country. Billy is immediately caught and quickly given a jail sentence of four years. At this point I had little compassion on the man… justice was at work. But then the Turkish courts decide to make an example of Billy and prolong his stay to thirty years just weeks before his original sentence was to be completed. Now I started to feel some compassion toward him, despite his many mistakes of heaping insult upon injury toward the Turkish authorities.

Billy is powerless. His father (Mike Kellin) and Turkish lawyer vow to get him out, but to no avail. And so we are treated to the reality of life in a dirty Turkish prison where rape, beatings, inedible food, and other despicable factors are the norm. He does make some expat friends, though… Jimmy (Randy Quaid), an emotional American; Erich (Norbert Weisser), a homosexual Scandinavian; and Max (John Hurt), a constantly-stoned Englishman. The three of them spend a lot of time together, but circumstances eventually lead to a particularly violent scene where Billy wildly attacks a hated fellow prisoner, managing to rip his face apart with his teeth.

One particularly offensive scene, though perhaps truthful, involves a visit from Billy’s girlfriend (Irene Miracle). They are separated by glass, but the now-insane Billy convinces his girlfriend to bear her chest so that he can masturbate. Nudity occurs in this scene (though it is the only scene involving a woman). Full male nudity also occurs in a prison-related environment. Several brutal fights, including torture, occur throughout. Language is offensive (profanity and swearing). In another scene, Billy and his gentle Scandinavian male friend appear in the shower together. They kiss, and it is obvious that Erich wants it to go further. Billy quietly turns down his sexual advances.

While the screenplay by Oliver Stone was given an Academy Award, and “Midnight Express” was a hit, I personally would not recommend it. For films of a similar nature, but far less offensive, I would recommend “Not Without My Daughter” or “Brokedown Palace.”


Viewer Comments
I agree with your review of this film. I remember watching it in 8th grade, excited because Oliver Stone had won an Oscar for his screenplay. Afterwards, I remember thinking that it was the first Stone film that I didn’t like. (The film’s director, Alan Parker, has also been very inconsistent. This film is not as good as his “Mississippi Burning” or as bad as his “Pink Floyd’s the Wall.”) I was disappointed. My Ratings: [1½/3]
—Andrew Hager, age 18