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Midnight Return (8/10)

by Tony Medley

runtime 99 minutes.

This is a fascinating documentary about the making and veracity of Midnight Express (1978), a film that supposedly told the true story of Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) and how he was arrested at a Turkish Airport accused of smuggling what were alleged to be small amounts of dope into Turkey.

Originally sentenced to 5 years, just a few months before his scheduled release he was resentenced to life in prison, so he made a daring escape, wrote a book that was made into the movie and became a celebrity. The case came to be the poster child for a Nazi-like system of justice in Turkey.

Written and directed by Sally Sussman, in this film we meet the real Billy Hayes, not the Hollywood actor (that Billy himself tried to be after becoming famous) who played him in the film. It shows how the movie devastated tourism in Turkey. With interviews with lots of the people involved in the film (like Producer Peter Gruber, Billy Hayes, Oliver Stone, Alan Parker, David Puttnam, Ahmet Ertegun, Giorgio Moroder, Jeffrey Lyons, Peter Greenberg and others) and showing Hayes going back to the prison and the places in Turkey that he visited, it is as much an indictment of Hayes himself as it is of Turkey.

One of the stories of the making of the film is finding a location. Obviously Turkey was out, but when they tried Italy, Spain, and Yugoslavia, objections from Turkey caused those countries not to cooperate with the filmmakers. Finally they discovered that the government of Malta had had a falling out with the Turkish government, so thatís where Midnight Express was filmed.

I wonít prejudge Hayes so you may make your own conclusions about him. Heís not a bad looking guy and this incident, book, and film have basically constituted his entire life. I have my opinion of him. Now itís up to you to see the film, the content of which seems honest, and make your own judgement. I found it very interesting.