Midnight Express (1978) was streaming on Netflix this week and since I'd never seen it before and usually get right into prison escape stories I clicked play and sat back for the gritty ride. Directed by Alan Parker—Fame (1980), Pink Floyd – The Wall (1982), Mississippi Burning (1988)—and starring Brad Davis, Irene Miracle, John Hurt and others including a mid-20s Randy Quaid, Midnight Express is based on Billy Hayes’ time behind bars in Turkey for attempting to smuggle hashish out of the country. Parts are brutal, like each time someone’s feet are caned, and Davis’s acting is so intense I wondered at times if it was the actor or the character who was insane or both. The Turks are subhuman “swine” (is there a single Turkish character in the film that’s actually human?) and apparently the film was criticized for this. Oliver Stone, pretty much still a nobody at the time, wrote the script and won an Oscar for it. The film was shot at a fort in Malta, which made the film visually unique among American 70s films and had all the grime and drabness to back up the gloomy story line. And the chase near the beginning set to Italian composer Giorgio Moroder’s synth-hit “Chase” is an experience in and of itself (man, synthesizers were truly revered back then). Also, watching the Midnight Express DVD Special Feature on YouTube is worthwhile for a better understanding of the film and its production.
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