Trailer for Midnight Express (1978); dir. Alan Parker, screenplay by Oliver Stone.
Based on the true story of Billy Hayes, Midnight Express was a huge film of the late seventies. Starring Brad Davis, it was the story of a young American who was arrested for drug-trafficking in Turkey and sentenced to 30 years in a squalid prison. It won two academy awards and co-starred John Hurt and Randy Quaid.
Although Oliver Stone, who wrote the screenplay, later regretted the way he and director Alan Parker had portrayed the Turkish authorities, Midnight Express still deserved the accolades it received: It was a well-made story of survival, emotional isolation, and the horrors of getting lost in a system, wherever that may be.
The film also contained some great suspense sequences: the opening scene of Billy trying to pass through the Turkish customs with drugs strapped to his chest is harrowing, as is his final, fateful escape from the prison, hinging on a gesture.
Midnight Express was also one of those films where the soundtrack left as much of a mark on its audience as the film itself. Like the theme by Vangelis in Peter Weir’s Gallipoli, or the Warsaw Concerto from the 1941 film Dangerous Moonlight, the soundtrack to Midnight Express was deeply emotional, with two distinctive themes that echoed throughout the film.
The first was the ’Theme from Midnight Express’, a repetitiously haunting melody that Moroder had written on a computer and a klavier organ. It has become one of the most sampled themes in hip-hop — up there with Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express and Good Times by Chic.
The second theme was ‘The Chase’ which accompanied Billy as he ran through the backstreets of Turkey, pursued by an American bounty-hunter. Because of its driving tempo, eight-and-a-half minute length, and catchy melody, The Chase became a huge hit with the dance community: It was a great example of the use of a high-pass filter (a synthesizer function) to build tension over time, a technique that would be used on everything from acid-techno to commercial dance for the next thirty years.
Midnight Express was also the first full-length electronic soundtrack to receive critical acclaim, winning both an Oscar and a Golden Globe in 1978 for Best Original Score. At the time, Moroder was already famous for his pioneering work with Donna Summer (creating the infamous ‘Moroder Bassline’ on I Feel Love) and these awards only strengthened his position in the music industry, allowing him to continue working as a film composer, as well as a producer.
Below: Giorgio Moroder performs Chase live on German TV in 1979, with his newly won Oscar (starts at 2.13).
Wikipedia entry for Giorgio Moroder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giorgio_Moroder
Giorgio Moroder’s Official Website: http://www.moroder.net/
Thanks to Mal and Amber’s Video Service.