Fort Apache, The Bronx

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Fort Apache: The Bronx
Fort apache the bronx.jpg
Film poster for Fort Apache, The Bronx
Directed by Daniel Petrie
Produced by
Written by Heywood Gould
Music by Jonathan Tunick
Cinematography John Alcott
Edited by Rita Roland
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • February 6, 1981 (1981-02-06)
Running time
125 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $65.2 million[1]

Fort Apache, The Bronx is a 1981 American Neo-noir crime drama film directed by Daniel Petrie and starring Paul Newman, Ken Wahl, Danny Aiello, Edward Asner, Rachel Ticotin, Kathleen Beller, Pam Grier, Clifford David and Miguel Piñero. It was written by Heywood Gould and produced by Martin Richards, Thomas Fiorello, with David Susskind as executive producer.

It was filmed on locations in the Bronx, New York City. Author Tom Walker sued Time-Life Television Films, alleging that the film infringed on his book Fort Apache but lost after a lengthy court battle.

Plot summary[edit]

The real "Fort Apache" in the summer of 2007—1086 Simpson Street in the Bronx, formerly the New York Police Department's 41st Precinct Station. 40°49′32.07″N 73°53′33.72″W / 40.8255750°N 73.8927000°W / 40.8255750; -73.8927000

Police officers face many challenges in the decayed South Bronx region of New York City. Among them are NYPD officers Murphy (Newman) and Corelli (Wahl), who work out of the 41st precinct, nicknamed "Fort Apache" because to those who work there, it feels like an army outpost in foreign territory (an allusion to Fort Apache out of the Old West).

The precinct itself is one of the worst and most dilapidated in the entire department, approaching demolition and staffed mostly by officers who are unwanted by and have been transferred out of other precincts. Additionally, the precinct is of little use to the large Puerto Rican community, as only 4% of the officers are Hispanic in the largest non-English speaking section of the Bronx, according to retiring precinct captain Dugan.

Corelli and Murphy attempt to maintain law and order but have conflicts with corrupt fellow officers, as well as with a newly appointed police captain, Connolly (Asner). There is rioting due to alleged police brutality, as well as issues related to the deaths of two rookie cops at the film's beginning.

Illustrating the hopeless futility of the work done at the precinct, the killer is later shown as an anonymous body, dumped in the roadside trash. With nothing to link her to the deaths of the rookie officers, the police remain ignorant of the fact that she was the killer and will never be caught, while a purse snatcher who dresses in pull over army surplus clothes as his disguise (and was targeting elderly welfare recipients on their check cashing days) is chased by Murphy and Corelli into the ambiguous ending, which leaves to the viewer to decide if he was successfully captured or not.



The film grossed over $65 million worldwide at its time of release in 1981.[1] On release, reviews were mixed.[2] On Rotten Tomatoes, which collects both modern and contemporaneous review, the film has an 83% approval rating based on 12 reviews; the average rating is 6.6/10.[3]

Richard Schickel, in TIME, called it "more like a made-for-TV movie". He also added, "The film is not quite up to its star" and is "somewhere between Barney Miller and the works of Joseph Wambaugh". Of the acting, he wrote, "But mainly it is Newman, now 56, who gives Fort Apache its modest distinction".[4] Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times, called it "...the most complete collection of cop-movie clichés since John Wayne played a Chicago cop in McQ". He criticized the number of unnecessary scenes and "story threads that lead nowhere". Ebert said about Newman that he is "good in his role", but called the film more of a TV show.[5] Variety labeled the film "... a very patchy picture, strong on dialog and acting and exceedingly weak on story", and criticizes it for its lack of depth.[6] Nick Sambides, Jr. at Allmovie calls it "...flinty but otherwise forgettable character study".[7] The New York Post published a photo of Newman on the set with a caption that he stated was inaccurate,[clarification needed] calling the paper "a garbage can". Because of the dispute the Post banned him from its pages, even removing his name from films in the TV listings.[8]

Legal issues[edit]

Local community groups threatened to file suit against the producers because of the way it depicted their neighborhood in the Bronx and for the depiction of ethnic minorities (Blacks and Puerto Ricans). Because of this pressure some changes were made to the script and a note was added to the title card at the beginning of the film.[6][9]

Walker v. Time Life Films, Inc., 784 F.2d 44 (2d Cir. 1986)

After the release of the film, an author, Tom Walker, filed a lawsuit against one of the production companies, Time-Life Television Films (legal owner of the script), claiming that the producers infringed on his book Fort Apache (New York: Crowell, 1976. ISBN 0-690-01047-8). Among other things, Walker, the plaintiff, argued that: "both the book and the film begin with the murder of a black and a white policeman with a handgun at close range; both depict cockfights, drunks, stripped cars, prostitutes and rats; both feature as central characters third- or fourth-generation Irish policemen who live in Queens and frequently drink; both show disgruntled, demoralized police officers and unsuccessful foot chases of fleeing criminals". But the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that these are stereo-typical ideas, so called "scènes à faire" (French for "scenes that must be done"), and that the United States copyright law does not protect concepts or ideas. The court ruling stated: "the book Fort Apache and the film Fort Apache: The Bronx were not substantially similar beyond [the] level of generalized or otherwise nonprotectible ideas, and thus [the] latter did not infringe copyright of [the] former".[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Fort Apache, The Bronx. – The Numbers
  2. ^ Battaglio, Stephen (2010). David Susskind: A Televised Life. Macmillan Publishers. p. 309–310. ISBN 9781429946148. 
  3. ^ "Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 9, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Conscience in a Rough Precinct". – TIME. – February 16, 1981. – Retrieved: 2008-06-10
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger. – "Fort Apache, The Bronx". – Chicago Sun Times. – January 1, 1981 – Retrieved: 2008-06-10
  6. ^ a b Film: "Fort Apache, The Bronx". – Variety. – January 1, 1981. – Retrieved: 2008-06-10
  7. ^ Sambides, Nick, Jr. – Review: Fort Apache, the Bronx". – AllMovie. – Retrieved: 2008-06-10
  8. ^ DiGiaomo, Frank (December 2004). "The Gossip Behind the Gossip". Vanity Fair. Retrieved September 13, 2011. 
  9. ^ Cultural Desk: "'Apache' Film's Debut Protested". – The New York Times. – February 7, 1981
  10. ^ Margolick, David. – Legal Notes: "Writer Told 'Ft. Apache' isn't Just His". – The New York Times. – August 25, 1985
  11. ^ Beeber, Jessie, and Maura Wogan. – "Is Scènes à Faire Really 'Necessary'?". – Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Journal. – Spring 2004. – Vol. 15, No. 1

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