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.
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
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
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.