Turkish Delight: A Double Dip at The Royal Cinema This Week…

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - January 30, 2018
Turkish Delight: A Double Dip at The Royal Cinema This Week…

You know it’s rare but not unheard of in this business for things to debut mid-week.

Over with our friends at the Royal Cinema here in downtown Toronto who often make every effort to provide their audiences with some pretty diverse programming have not one but two VERY different films starting tonight and tomorrow respectively for a short run that have a sneaky all be it salient connection.

Starting tonight; Midnight Return: The Story of Billy Hayes & Turkey is an interesting but ultimately a little dull piece of cinema history that speaks to the influence that movies can often have.

After his ingenious escape from a Turkish prison in 1975, Billy Hayes arrived home to a hero’s welcome, instant celebrity and within a week had a book and movie deal for his story. From the moment it stunned the world at the Cannes Film Festival in 1978, Midnight Express cemented its place in film history as an artistic and financial success, before becoming an indelible part of pop culture. However its lasting impact has been on Turkish people worldwide who still condemn the film as racist and blame Billy Hayes for defaming them and their country. Despite warnings from family and friends, Billy returns to Turkey and faces a nation still haunted by the film and his own demons.

While it’s a salient reminder at the genuine power cinema can have as Midnight Express really did upset an entire nation, director Sally Sussman Morina gives us an uneven portrait of Billy Hayes as a man as we engage a little more with the making of the film and the subsequent truth about Hayes as an individual more than anything that happened afterwards.

The reality is that when we see “Based On A True Story” before a movie title we never really know HOW much of it is based on reality.  While the film is certainly brutally effective yarn, it takes a lot of liberties, ones that affected an entire nation.  It’s interesting to see the backtracking of all that and a little history and context behind the film but the film lacked any genuine kind of compelling subject proving that maybe Brad Davis as Billy Hayes was actually a little more compelling then Hayes himself, who is by his own admission a free spirited hippie and at least back then a low level drug smuggler.  While it’s nice that the film tries to at least right some of the social wrongs that it did through its very harsh portrayal of the Turkish people, it really only works if you had any kind of strong connection to the original film.  It’s worth a watch, but it’s hardly vital unless you grew up with the original Midnight Express as a pivotal part of your cinematic upbringing.

Midnight Return: The Story of Billy Hayes & Turkey is 3 out of 5 stars.

From the tempered and measured, we go all the way to the surreal and downright ridiculous.  Starting at the Royal Cinema tomorrow night from the cinema of Turkey all the way back in 1975; it’s The Sword and The Claw.

They took his money, they took his family and now they’ve taken his hands!  But the one thing they can never take from him his insatiable thirst for revenge!  Hidden in the woods as a baby and raised by a pride of lions, this king returns to regain his throne.

With Turkish genre legend Cunyet Arkin in one of his more iconic roles, The Sword and The Claw feels like a mash-up between a barbarian movie and a slap stick comedy that was never quite sure how to get the timing right.  Kind of like if the Three Stooges or Benny Hill tried to make Conan The Barbarian.

You can leave any assumptions of this being a traditionally good film at the doorstep, because this just isn’t…but that doesn’t mean you can actually look away from it.

It’s goofy, it’s fun and very much all over the place but it’s a piece of gonzo kung fu and action that is deservedly restored by the American Genre Film Festival and it one of those pieces of cinema that is just so bad, that it’s actually really good.  It’s the kind of movie where you turn your brain off, get a big bag of popcorn, a drink (either alcoholic or otherwise) and just take the ride.

I’d give The Sword And The Claw a traditional rating, but seriously what exactly would be the point?

Midnight Return: The Story of Billy Hayes & Turkey kicks off tonight and runs until Sunday while The Sword and The Claw kicks off tomorrow night at the Royal and also runs until Sunday.  You can visit them right here to learn more.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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