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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 Bangkokmarker prison in which the protagonist is imprisoned.


Katrina Stanton (Nicole Kidman), is a sheltered young Australian heiress who embarks on an international quest to find her father, Hal Stanton (Denholm Elliott). Hal had been a POW in World War II (as had Denholm Elliott), imprisoned in a Bangkok prison.

She is unable to track down her father. While planning her return to Australia from London, Katrina is befriended by Arkie Ragan, a young photographer who becomes her lover and traveling companion. Leaving Bangkok together after a stopover, Katrina is arrested at the airport for drug smuggling and Arkie disappears. The heroin was planted in her luggage by Arkie, a drug smuggler who was using her as an unwitting mule to carry the drugs out of Thailand.

Katrina is imprisoned in a squalid, overcrowded Bangkok prison nicknamed "The Bangkok Hilton". There she meets another Australian woman, Mandy Engels, a heroin addict also imprisoned for drug trafficking. Mandy had used her mentally retarded brother Billy to carry her drugs as they passed through airport customs but the drugs were detected, and both were sentenced to death for drug trafficking. Billy is housed in the men's section of the "Bangkok Hilton" complex.

After the arrest Hal is tracked down. By this time he has lapsed into alcoholism and seems on the verge of a melancholic demise. It transpires he had been imprisoned in the same jail that now holds his daughter, and he becomes his daughter's last hope.


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 Yaomarker women's prison carries the nickname Bangkok Hilton A 2004 BBC documentary about Bangkwang prisonmarker - a male only prison - was titled "The Real Bangkok Hilton" . Some news reports have claimed that Bangkwang prison itself carries the real-life nickname "Bangkok Hilton".


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 were also completely redone, and the final shot of the film, which played over 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.


  1. BBC Program on Bangkwang Prison

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