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Bangkok Hilton
Directed by Ken Cameron
Written by Ken Cameron (story),
Terry Hayes (story),
Tony Morphett (story),
Terry Hayes (screenplay)
Starring Nicole Kidman,
Denholm Elliott,
Hugo Weaving,
Joy Smithers
Release date(s) October 5, 1989
Running time 270 minutes
Country Australia
Language English

Bangkok Hilton is a three-part Australian mini-series, made in 1989 by Kennedy Miller Productions and directed by Ken Cameron. The title of the mini-series is, in the story, the nickname of a fictional Bangkok prison in which the protagonist is imprisoned.



Bangkok Hilton begins as Hal Stanton (Denholm Elliott) leaves Bangkok by ship in the present day. He explains that he has been traveling for years, since a shameful incident when he was a prisoner of the Japanese right there in Bangkok in WWII. (Elliott was also a POW in the war himself).

He then takes us to 1960s Sydney, where he was working as a lawyer under the assumed name of Graham Greene. He falls in love with Katherine Faulkner (Judy Morris), the lovely but sheltered daughter of a wealthy family who live in a huge, isolated mansion in the outback. He visits the estate and woos Katherine and they fall passionately in love, but Hal's secret identity is soon exposed. During the war he notoriously betrayed a group of his own men, who were planning an escape, to their Japanese captors, and was later court-martialled for it. The fact that he did so to protect the rest of his men from reprisals was considered irrelevant, and he has lived with the shame ever since. Katherine's family break up the relationship and Hal moves, despondently, away. Katherine is pregnant, however, and soon gives birth to Katrina. The young girl is raised on her own at the estate, treated as a shameful product of the illicit affair. A few years later, Katrina, now grown and played by (Nicole Kidman), loses her mother to cancer and inherits the family fortune. Having never ventured off the estate, she travels to Sydney, where she learns that her father is not dead, as she was always told. She decides to go to London, where his family lived, to track him down.

In London, she makes contact with the uncle and cousin she has never met before, overcoming their initial reluctance to meet with her. While planning her return to Australia, Katrina is befriended by Arkie Ragan, a young American photojournalist who becomes her lover and traveling companion. When the trail leads Katrina to Bangkok, Arkie suggests they go by way of Goa. While enjoying a romantic weekend there, he secretly picks up a shipment of heroin and loads it into Katrina's suitcase. Katrina and Arkie attempt to find Hal in Bangkok, but find the family lawyer, Richard Carlisle (Hugo Weaving), unwilling to help. Reluctantly returning to Australia, Katrina is arrested at the airport when drug sniffing dogs detect her suitcase. Arkie disappears.

Katrina is imprisoned in a squalid, overcrowded Bangkok prison nicknamed the "Bangkok Hilton". There she meets another Australian woman, Mandy Engels (Joy Smithers), a heroin addict also imprisoned for drug trafficking. Mandy had used her mentally retarded brother Billy (Noah Taylor) to carry her drugs as they passed through airport customs but the drugs were detected and both were sentenced to death for trafficking. As Katrina's case works its way through the courts they become friends, with Mandy teaching Katrina the ropes of prison life. Meanwhile, Richard Carlisle convinces Hal to take an active part in the case, pretending to be a lawyer from Carlisle's firm.

Hal finds it especially difficult to visit Katrina in the "Bangkok Hilton," because it is the same prison where he was kept by the Japanese forty years earlier. Nonetheless, he finds the will to do so, and to retrace Katrina's footsteps to London and Goa, reuniting with his family as he tracks down the elusive Arkie, hoping his daughter can be saved this way. Eventually, though, Hal and Katrina will be forced to rely only on their own strength to save her life.


Later productions with similar stories include Return to Paradise and Brokedown Palace.

After the series aired, the name Bangkok Hilton has regularly been used in the media to refer to any and all Bangkok prisons as if those prisons were actually nicknamed Bangkok Hilton in real life.

Some news reports state that the Lard Yao women's prison carries the nickname Bangkok Hilton [1] A 2004 BBC documentary about Bangkwang prison - a male only prison - was titled "The Real Bangkok Hilton" [2]. Some news reports have claimed that Bangkwang prison itself carries the real-life nickname "Bangkok Hilton".[3]


The miniseries was originally broadcast in Australia in 1989 as three episodes, each running two hours with commercials, for a complete running time of four-and-a-half hours. This version was also broadcast in the US on TBS in 1991.

In 2000 it was released on DVD in the United Kingdom. Each episode was cut in half, with three episodes on each of two discs. This version mistakenly left the subtitles off a number of scenes which occur in Thai.

The bootleg version, commonly available from Russia and other countries, cuts the series down to ninety minutes, only a third of its original length.

The most recent DVD version, released in Australia in 2005, again presents the series in three parts, but it has been cropped enormously for widescreen televisions, cutting off the top and bottom of the film. Because of this, the opening and closing credits had to be completely redone and the final shot of the film, which played under the closing credits of episode 3, has thus been omitted.


Bangkok Hilton hotels

At the time the miniseries was made, the Hilton International Bangkok at Nai Lert Park (opened in 1983), was in operation. The series carried a disclaimer that it had no connection to that hotel. The hotel is now operated by Raffles International under the name Swissotel Nai Lert Park Bangkok and is still owned by the Sampatisiri family.


External links



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