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Bangkok Hilton (1989) is a classic Australian mini-series. Featuring Nicole Kidman, as a naïve Australian girl, in a Thai prison fighting for freedom. It maintains high production values, great acting, playing on the common fear of being wrongly accused of drug smuggling. Starring high-profile actors at the beginning of their careers, namely Nicole Kidman, as Katrina Stanton the accused, and Hugo Weaving as her lawyer, Richard Carlisle.
The mini-series was produced by the acclaimed Kennedy Miller Productions, famous for other Australian classics such as Mad Max (1979) and Babe (1995). The story is split over three parts, each around 1 hour and 30 minutes, to give a total duration of 4 hours and 30 minutes. Originally broadcast in Australia on Channel 10 from November 5th 1989 over three nights, running for two hours each with commercials, Bangkok Hilton was rebroadcast by TBS in the United States in 1991.
The title comes from the nickname of the fictional Thai prison in the story, the original release carrying a disclaimer saying the movie was in no way referred to the Hilton International Bangkok hotel.
Original Television Promotion
Spoiler warning: This synopsis explains the first half of the story.
Hal Stanton (Denholm Elliot) is a Bristish immigrant hiding from his past, practising law in Australia. Using the name of a famous author, Graham Greene, he seperates himself from his British identity, found guilty of war crimes through a publicised trial. His true identity is eventually revealed, resulting in his dismissal from the law firm, but not before he manages to seduce a young, wealthy woman whom we later see raising a girl, Katrina.
Katrina grows up isolated from the outside world, under the care of her overly protective mother, with whom she has never been close. Upon her mother's death from cancer, Katrina inherits a sizeable fortune. She then finds her mother's private letters featuring her one and only love, Hal Stanton, and Katrina (Nicole Kidman) becomes infactuated with finding her real father.
The search to meet her father for the first time takes her to London, but Kat's uncle shows little interest in helping her find his brother, the "black sheep" of the family. She believes he may be in Bangkok, and goes to change her ticket home to include a stop-over in Thailand. In the airline office, a fateful meeting takes place and Katrina meets the devastatingly charming, Arkie Ragan (Jerome Ehlers).
An idyllic week follows in London, where Katrina's innocence is severely tested as she is enamored of Arkie. The feeling appears mutual as Arkie wishes to travel with Kat, and presents her a new camera. They head off to Bangkok together in another attempt to find Hal Stanton. Unsuccessful, they plan to fly on to Australia together, but eight kiliograms of heroin is discovered in the false bottom of Katrina's camera case. Katrina is interrogated and immediately arrested, while Arkie disappears without trace.
Katrina is incarcerated in the notorious "Bangkok Hilton" prison on drug trafficking charges. She uses her time to reunite with the lawyer who was the only connection she found to her father in Thailand, Richard Carlisle (Hugo Weaving), and demands he defend her. Unknown to Katrina, her drunkard father is already working very closely with Richard Carlisle to try to see her released. With the Thai government's strict stand on drug trafficking, there is no chance of a fair trial. The second half of the movie follows her attempts to regain freedom, with the assistance of her lawyer and her father.
Nicole Kidman as Katrina Stanton (Australia, Eyes Wide Shut, Moulin Rouge!, Dogville)
Denholm Elliott as Hal Stanton (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Trading Places, A Private Function, A Room with a View)
Hugo Weaving as Richard Carlisle (The Matrix trilogy, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Little Fish, V for Vendetta)
Joy Smithers as Mandy Engels (Rose Stevens on the Australian TV Series "All Saints")
Norman Kaye as George McNair (Lonely Hearts, Man of Flowers, Moulin Rouge!)
Jerome Ehlers as Arkie Ragan (Two Hands, Ned Kelly, Quigley Down Under)
Noah Taylor as Billy Engels (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Almost Famous, Lara Croft series, He Died with a Felafel in His Hand)
Director: Ken Cameron
Writers: Ken Cameron, Terry Hayes, Tony Morphett
Producers: Barbara Gibbs, Doug Mitchell, George Miller, Terry Hayes
Company: Kennedy Miller Productions
Purchase the Film
Classic Australian Film - all three parts over two DVDs.
- Bangkok Hilton (1989) - MichaelDVD
Technical information about the 2005 R4 DVD release.
- Bangkok Hilton - Wikipedia
Basic information about the film.
- Bangkok Hilton - IMDB
Directed by Ken Cameron. With Nicole Kidman, Denholm Elliott, Hugo Weaving. Visit IMDb for Photos, Showtimes, Cast, Crew, Reviews, Plot Summary, Comments, Discussions, Taglines, Trailers, Posters, Fan Sites