In Reality ...
The real Billy Hayes was so traumatized by his experience that he ... loves Turkey, has nothing but good things to say about it, and has since apologized to the nation for any negative stereotypes he unwittingly created. Hayes really did try to smuggle drugs out of Turkey (the movie said it was his first offense, but he'd done it successfully a bunch of times before), and he did go to prison for it, and he did escape that prison, and he did make his way back to America. And that's it.
Let's start here: Prison sucks. It's no fun. But Hayes rates Turkish prisons as better than American ones. He never killed a guard in order to escape. That plot point was completely made up for the film. As was the ridiculous idea that he ripped another inmate's tongue out in order to get himself transferred to the insanity ward. The mundane truth is that he kind of walked out of prison one day when the guards weren't looking.
via Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training
Presumably by pointing and yelling, "Oh, no! Behind you!"
Turkey cared so little about Hayes' escape that they never bothered to put a warrant out for him ... well, until the movie came out and made them look bad. But then, a 30-year prison sentence for trying to move weed is still kind of harsh, so maybe we can call this one a tie?
The Real Birdman Of Alcatraz Was A Sociopathic Monster
1962's The Birdman Of Alcatraz was the uplifting biopic of Alcatraz inmate Robert Stroud: a sweet, misunderstood, Burt-Lancaster-handsome man who passed the time in his cell by collecting and caring for birds. Over the years, he became something of a bird expert, and wrote books about the care and upkeep of our feathered friends, all while becoming something of a prison hero. He defused a riot, he broke windows so the prisoners could have some fresh air, and he generally did not take any of the Man's bullshit.
Or birdshit, in this case.
In Reality ...
The story of Robert Stroud isn't The Shawshank Redemption with birds. It's more like Silence Of The Lambs. Keep in mind that the authorities were incredibly generous to allow him to keep birds in his cell, considering he was a violent, unpredictable, murderous sexual predator.
The film omits the fact that Stroud was refused clemency because he kept threatening other prisoners for sex, once ran a morphine racket, and stabbed a few folks for good measure. Along with the whole bird thing, his other hobby was writing -- but his stories were mostly explicit fantasies about him abducting children off the street to rape and kill.
Scholastic politely turned down his unsolicited manuscripts.
In the movie, there's a heart-wrenching scene in which the guards finally forbid Stroud from keeping birds, thus taking away the one thing in his life that gave it meaning. In real life, they did this because his cell had become a horrifying biological hazard. The floor was ankle-deep in bird poop, cigarette butts, and rotting bird corpses, while his benches were covered in vivisected bird cadavers. Stroud's privileges were unheard of in the prison system, and the only reason they let it go on so long was due to public pressure over the sweet and gentle Birdman who had become famous in ... the bird-lovers community? We guess?
Prison psychiatrists considered the Birdman to be kind of an evil genius, having managed to manipulate the public even from inside a jail cell. And this manipulation eventually made it all the way to Hollywood, which tried but thankfully failed to win the sociopathic Robert Stroud his freedom. Thus were we spared the inevitable bird-themed murder spree.
Behind every awful movie is the idea for a good one. Old man Indiana Jones discovers aliens. Good in theory, bad in practice. Batman fights Superman. So simple, but so bad. Are there good translations of these movies hidden within the stinking turds that saw the light of day? Jack O'Brien hosts Soren Bowie, Daniel O'Brien and Katie Willert of 'After Hours' on our next live podcast to find an answer as they discuss their ideal versions of flops, reboots, and remakes. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased here!
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