One evening a friend suggested that we go and see ‘Midnight Express’. I had seen a preview and thought it looked exciting so Karla and I set off for the cinema downtown. It was the summer of 1978.
Karla lived in a flat above me. Barton (as I called it) was a big corner, 2 storey house which was divided into 4 apartments. Liam and his girlfriend of a number of years had lived in the street level left unit. Somehow I think that my bro might have lived in that unit at some point also. Karla I believe was the first of the gang to live there sometime in the mid seventies. Initially she and her boyfriend Mark lived in the upper right flat. It had a balcony, which was nice in the summer. When they split, Karla kept the apartment. Marnie, a friend of hers who was an Air Canada flight attendant, moved into the upper left flat. I think that Karla had kept an ear open for the departure of the former tenant and informed Marnie immediately the flat became available.
Meanwhile the Liam and his girlfriend broke up. She was a medical intern whose father was a psychiatrist. Dr Smith may have been a charming man, but from what I heard of the family history he negatively impacted every one of his 3 children. He had left his wife for a much younger woman and she tried to kill herself by ingesting an overdose of some medication. Her youngest son, then 12, came home to discover his dying mother. She apparently was resuscitated, but had sustained brain damage to the point of vegetation. She exists to this day in a nursing home.
In his infinite ‘wisdom’, Dr. Smith apparently advised his daughter that he believed that 23 or 24 was too young to be involved in a longterm relationship and that she should see other men, which she did! I don’t know if she first tried to conceal the other men from Liam, but according to him, at some point it became very obvious that she was having sex with other men. Interestingly enough to me, she ended up screwing some of Liam’s best (ahem) buds. There was S, B (and he’s gay), Keith and probably lesser known (to me) acquaintances of his! Some friends, huh? I am happy to report that my bro was not among those slimoes…
Not surprisingly, Liam could no longer take this affront, and left her. At that time I was living in a big house with my bro and his girlfriend (this I called Herrick). Liam apparently called his bud, my bro, and asked him if he could stay with him for a few days, to which my bro agreed. And it was at this time, December, 1977, that my future husband and I connected….
A kept the apartment, and when the apartment opposite her (street level, right flat) became available, Karla quickly told me. I had been looking for an apartment of my own. Working as a nurse, I could afford it. I happily moved from sharing a flat with my Liv and Bella (another Ryerson student) into my first real apartment at the beginning of 1978, which brings me back to Midnight Express.
I think it was the first day that Midnight Express was out in general release, and there were crowds lining up to see it. We got our tickets, and headed up to the balcony section. Now in those days, you could smoke in cinemas. The smoking section was usually in the balcony, while the poor non-smokers could try and see a movie with less second hand smoke on the ground level.
It was a very warm summers evening, and when we were buying our tickets, the ushers were informing the crowds that the air conditioning in this theater was broken. We had waited in line for quite a while and by now were all hyped up to see this movie which had been well written up by critics……
In the movie, a young American couple are vacationing in Turkey. Stupid guy buys dope and decides, despite the harsh drug possession laws, to smuggle his large stash of dope back home to the US. He has his girlfriend, who is rightly scared about his intentions, help him strap large amounts of tape over his many packets of H around his torso. Over this, he wears a sweatshirt and a flack jacket. The suspense builds as they line up for the customs check in the rickety airport. The customs officers are dressed in nasty army gear with menacing machine guns strapped onto their uniforms. The actors in this film are relative unknowns, except of course for John Hurt. Brad ? is the main player in this and gives an excellent performance.
We watch as Brad starts to sweat in his inappropriately warm clothes. We hear his quickening heartbeat as he presents his passport to the surly officers. We start to sweat as a soldier goes to pat him down. We stop breathing as the officer’s hands stop at his torso, then the guns are noisily cocked and the officer rips off Brad’s jacket and his sweatshirt to reveal his illicit cargo.
What makes this movie particularly memorable to me is the unintentional special effects added to this steamy suspense flick. As mentioned before, the A/C was not functioning, which soon caused the capacity audience to get very hot and sweat. Add to this the stagnant air and the haze of the many cigs being puffed, and we have an almost ‘sensurround’ experience which fits the tense stifling mood of the movie perfectly.
Needless to say, Brad ends up languishing in a Turkish prison, almost without hope for a while. There he meets some other hapless yanks in the same boat as well as an older eccentric Brit, John Hurt.
By the time the movie was over I think we were all gasping for fresh air and a cool down.
Poor Brad never did much more after that. I heard he contracted AIDS and according to him, was blacklisted by Hollywood. He died sometime in the eighties, before it was fashionable for big stars to do benefits for AIDS research. I don’t think Rock Hudson had come out with his big secret yet.
Friday, July 7, 2006 written