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MIDNIGHT RETURN: 3 ½ STARS. “makes the most of its talking head presentation.”

In 1978 the movie “Midnight Express” was a big hit. The true story of Billy Hayes and his escape from a Turkish prison packed audiences, won a screenwriting Oscar for Oliver Stone and made Hayes a media star. It also enraged the Turkish people and led to a major decline in tourism to that country. A new documentary is part true-life crime story, part making-of doc and part mea culpa.

Written and directed by Sally Sussman “Midnight Return” gathers all the original players—Hayes, Stone, director Alan Parker and more—to tell the tale of Hayes’s arrest in Istanbul, at age 23, for smuggling hashish. The year was 1970 and Hayes was sentenced to four years and two months in a Turkish prison. After serving the bulk of the time he was resentenced to life behind bars. He escaped in 1975, making his way to Greece and then into the waiting arms of his parents in the United States.

Upon his stateside arrival he was a cause celeb. His book, “Midnight Express,” detailed his ordeal in gruesome detail. The film, starring Brad Davis, drew praise from critics but was criticized for its portrayal of Turkish people. Director Parker even admits the Turkish actors aren’t even speaking Turkish in the film and hat no effort was made to be culturally authentic. Despite accolades at home Hayes was vilified in Turkey, seen as an agent of propaganda and universally hated.

This entertaining doc details Hayes’s life and efforts to rehabilitate his reputation in the country that once held him prisoner. Chock full of anecdotes about the making of the film—Stone and Parker did NOT get along— and insights to Hayes’s life both before and after his arrest, “Midnight Return” makes the most of its talking head presentation.

Of all the characters Hayes stands out. He’s a showboater but despite his extroverted ways it is apparent his time away had a profound impact on him. The film’s final third, his trip back to Istanbul, reveals the deep level of hurt that lies beneath his bravura exterior. Those revelations, mostly captured on home grade video, deepen the impact of the movie, elevating “Midnight Return” from talking head doc to character study.

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