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Midnight Express (1978)

The fat Turkish warden in Midnight Express doesn’t speak much English . . . but he doesn’t need to. He sweats a lot and grunts while he kicks the crap out of the prisoners.

Young American Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) is serving a sentence in a Turkish prison for drug smuggling. The film documents Billy’s descent into madness and despair with the criminally insane all around him (and a decent chance of getting bummed).

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The physical and emotional brutalisation to which Billy is exposed prompted accusations that director Alan Parker had painted a racist picture of the Turks, but the appalling state of the Turkish penal system represents only half of the film’s argument.

The underlying theme tackles our deep-rooted fear of “otherness”, which is an inescapable part of the human condition.

It’s astounding how one of the pioneers of disco, Giorgio Moroder, was able to apply his synths to an Istanbul jail and come up with something so moving and apt. It won him an Oscar, and rightly so.

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Billy Hayes
Brad Davis

Director
Alan Parker