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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


Midnight Express [Blu-ray]


(Alan Parker, 1978)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Columbia Tri-Star

Video: Sony Pictures



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:00:59.252

Disc Size: 48,463,030,697 bytes

Feature Size: 32,486,025,216 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.96 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 21st, 2009



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



Dolby TrueHD Audio English 1260 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1260 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby TrueHD Audio French 1363 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1363 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby TrueHD Audio Portuguese 1406 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1406 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround



English, English (SDH), French, Portuguese, Spanish, none



• Commentary track with Director Alan Parker
Featurette: The Producers (25:54 in HD!)
Featurette: The Production (24:28 in HD!)
Featurette: The Finished Film (23:48 in HD!)
Featurette: The Making of 'Midnight Express' (7:28)
Photo gallery
Digibook packaging with essay





Description: Forever embroiled in controversy, Midnight Express divides viewers into opposing camps: those who think it's one of the most intense real-life dramas ever made, and those who abhor its manipulative tactics and alteration of facts for the exploitative purpose of achieving a desired effect. That effect is powerfully achieved, regardless of how you may feel about director Alan Parker and Oscar«-winning screenwriter Oliver Stone's interpretation of the story of Billy Hayes. It was the American Hayes--played by the late Brad Davis in an unforgettable performance--who was caught smuggling two kilograms of hashish while attempting to board a flight from Istanbul, Turkey, in 1970. He was sentenced to four years in a hellish Turkish prison on a drug possession charge, but his sentence was later extended (though not by 30 years, as the film suggests), and Hayes endured unthinkable brutality and torture before his escape in 1975.



The Film:

Alan Parker's 1978 Midnight Express serves as an effective public service message to na´ve young Americans entertaining thoughts of smuggling drugs from foreign countries. Based on a novel by Billy Hayes, who spent five years in an Istanbul prison, the frightening and convincing movie shows just how much trouble a foolish kid from the states can get into.

The impression given is that Turkey is a country of barbaric savages -- nobody forgets the image of hulking Hamidou (Paul Smith), a depraved brute given full license to abuse his prisoners. Turkey protested the film's portrayal of their country almost immediately, and in the years after the release of Midnight Express Billy Hayes admitted that his book exaggerated conditions in the prison where he was held. Midnight Express now stands as a handsomely-filmed exploitation film that preys upon Western prejudices and xenophobia.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE



Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Midnight Express looks about as good as it can on Blu-ray from Sony. Dusty locales in Turkey and Greece seem fittingly gritty with a brownish aura claustrophobically circumventing many scenes even beyond the 'prison'. While the visuals benefit from the move to HD - it may not reach the expectations of some adopters of this new format. Detail is never apparent in crystal clarity and close-ups often seem overwhelmed by the deep grain. Color never expands to brilliance but this, too, seems an intentional appearance. Comparing to an existing SD-DVD may have been more revealing but I don't own one at this time.  Daylight scenes are more impressive but darkness and shadows are a constant within most scenes. This Blu-ray has a nice realistic feel with the only black-mark being the grain which can look so intense in monochromatic blackness that it appears more like digital noise.  By modern standards this is fairly tame visually but as a representation of the original - I doubt much more could be done.















Audio :

We are offered a 5.1 TrueHD track at only 1260 Kbps.  There are a few moments of notable separation but overall the film has a reasonably tame track without substantial buoyancy. Giorgio Moroder's original score sounds quite strong and impacting. There are optional subtitles and my Momitsu tells me this is region FREE playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.




Extras :

There is a compelling commentary from director Parker, plus well over an hour's worth of HD featurettes - mostly dealing with production - and a blasÚ Photo gallery. Included are an older 'making off' without any surprising content. The commentary and featurettes are definitely worth the time invested though - they are educational and informative - passion for the project still seems intact for many of the filmmakers and participants.



The film remains quite harrowing although seems tamer and more one-sided now than when it initially appeared over 30-years ago. The extras are an excellent inclusion and help appreciation of the production and back-story and this Blu-ray is priced well for what you are getting. Purchasers may wish to temper their expectations regarding the image quality but the film's more vital attributes are exported with a high level of humanity and tension. It is still worth seeing - especially in this, the best available, transfer. 

Gary Tooze

July 17th, 2009




About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze








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