Fort Apache the Bronx (1981)

Telling the story of the 41st Police Precinct in the South Bronx, which was nicknamed “Fort Apache,” this 1981 film focuses on an 18-year veteran cop named Murphy (played by Paul Newman, who reportedly got $3 million and 15 percent of the profits for his role) who does his best to keep the peace in the neighborhood. During his duties, Murphy encounters every criminal imaginable — bookies, drug dealers, hookers, murderers, suicidal transvestites, as well as a serial thief who becomes a thorn in his side. Also in the heart of the story is a cop-killing prostitute (played by a vivacious Pam Grier) whose murders increases tension amongst the members of the 41st Precinct.

Filmed almost entirely on location in the Bronx, “Fort Apache, the Bronx” offers an interesting glimpse into an oft-overlooked part of NYC during a time when it was literally on fire. While it certainly exaggerated the amount of crime and turmoil that was occurring in the Bronx, the movie was representing the general impression people had of the northern borough.

Unfortunately, overall, the film isn’t that great. The story is too one-sided and ends up being a bit meandering, and I think Paul Newman was completely miscast in the lead. But he is surrounded by a decent supporting cast including Ed Asner, Ken Wahl, Rachel Ticotin, Paul Gleason, and Danny Aiello as his bullish coworker. Of course, the most valuable aspect of “Fort Apache” is that it shows off some rare, stark images of the South Bronx as it was transitioning from the destructive 1970s to the restorative 1980s.

 

 

Early-Morning Assassination

Two rookie police officers sit in their squad car, parked in front of 1321 Louis Niñe Blvd, near the Freeman Street El station.
A strung-out hooker approaches the car, then pulls out a handgun and shoots the cops at point-blank range.

 


There wasn’t much information about Fort Apache, the Bronx’s filming locations on any the traditional movie websites, so I had to figure out a lot of them on my own. I did have one unique source that helped me figure out a chunk of locations early on in my research (which I discuss in more detail in the “Chasing a Purse–Snatcher” section below) but for this scene, I did on my own.

One obvious clue to go on was the elevated train station seen the background, but the clue that really helped me figure out this location was the “Cristiana Torrente” sign that appears behind Pam Grier. After doing a Google search, I found information on a Bronx church named, “Iglesia Cristiana Torrente De Cedrón,” located at 1330 Louis Niñe Boulevard (called Wilkins Avenue at the time of filming). Even though the church name wasn’t exactly the same, it still looked promising since it was near a train station whose transit house on the elevated platform was similar to one in the film. However, since most of the buildings in the area had been replaced or drastically remodeled, it took me a little time to confirm that I found the right place.

 

Normally, the first thing I do when I want to check out a street that has changed dramatically over the years, is consult the NYC municipal tax archives for old photographs. At the time I was researching this film, the 1940s tax pictures were not available online, but the ones from the 1980s were. Even though there wasn’t a picture of the church, there was one of the neighboring building at 1328 Louis Niñe Blvd, which matched the hardware store seen in the film.

 

Unfortunately, the photographs of all the other neighboring lots on that block were unhelpful because at the time they were taken (circa 1983-1986), all the buildings had already been torn down. But the church, the El station, and a matching tax photo of no. 1328 convinced me I found the right place.

 

The Police Station

Officer John Joseph Vincent Murphy exits the “41st Precinct,” which was really the 42nd at 830 Washington Avenue.

 

 

Driving Up Third Avenue

Murphy and his partner Andrew Corelli drive up Third Avenue, passing E 152nd Street.

 

 

Transvestite Rooftop jumper

A cross-dressing jumper teeters on the rooftop of 581 E 164th Street.
Murphy and Corelli arrive on the scene, parking on the corner of E 164th and Boston Road.
They get the story of the jumper from the building’s super, who sits on the stoop.

 

 

Chasing a Purse–Snatcher

Later on, Murphy and Corelli spot a familiar neighborhood thief, who snatches a purse in front of 535 E Tremont Avenue, then dashes south.
Murphy chases him up the Third Avenue steps into Tremont Park.
They run east through the park.
Murphy and the purse-snatcher speed past the paddleball court, which catches the attention of the players.
Finally, the purse-snatcher escapes into an alley behind 630 E 176th Street.
Outside the park’s Author Avenue entrance, an exhausted Murphy is gibed by his fellow officers who tell him he should have just shot the thief.

 

Caption Connolly Arrives

Back at the station at 830 Washington Avenue, the newly appointed police Captain, Dennis Connolly, arrives.

 

 

Confronting a Pimp

Still on patrol, Murphy confronts an abusive pimp outside of 862 St Ann’s Avenue.
At the same time, his partner checks out the battered hooker, who unbeknownst to him, is the cop-killer.
The pimp tries to defuse the situation by offering the cops a payoff.
This just pisses off Murphy, who smashes the pimp’s car’s headlight and threatens to twist head off if he tries to “grease” him again.
Murphy and Corelli return to their squad car, while the pimp bites his tongue and tries to reassure them that he’ll “keep it off the streets.”

 

 

Knife-Wielding Lunatic

Responding to a call, Murphy and his partner drive up E 173rd Street from Webster Avenue. 
They encounter a deranged bearded man brandishing a knife outside of a deli at 347 E 173rd Street. 
Murphy skews his hat and acts deranged, too, crossing Clay Avenue towards him. 
Murphy talks in gibberish, which seems to resonate with the lunatic, who relinquishes his knife.
Once the bearded man is disarmed, the onlookers cheer from their windows at 1680 Clay Avenue.

 

 

Hospital

Isabella, a local nurse, exits the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center at 1276 Fulton Avenue.
She sees Murphy, whom she met earlier in the day, waiting for her across the street. He asks her out for drink, which she accepts.

 

 

Cop Bar

Isabell exits Murphy’s car, near the IRT’s Intervale-163d Street Elevated station on Westchester Avenue.
They walk west on Westchester Avenue, towards Intervale.
They enter the corner bar at 942 Westchester Avenue.

 


valencia bar

 

Driving Isabella Home

Later on, Murphy gives Isabella a ride home to 1811 Waterloo Place.

 

Flat Tire

Meanwhile, several hookers loiter on the corner of E 175th and Third Avenue, underneath the Cross Bronx Expressway.
A station wagon drives past the working girls, heading west on E 175th Street.
The station wagon pulls over in front of 505 E 175th Street, where a grouchy motorist gets out to discover he has a flat tire. 
Charlotte, the cop-killer from earlier, approaches the man as he fixes his flat and convinces him to join her inside the dilapidated building..
Once inside, Charolette slits the man’s throat with a razor blade hidden in her mouth.

 

Rounding Up Drug Dealers

With a cop-killer on the loose, the new Captain has Murphy and Corelli work as plainsclothes in order to round up as many known criminals as possible, including a drug dealer at 613 Eagle Avenue.

 

Rounding Up Johns and Hookers

Murphy and Corelli arrest a bunch of hookers and johns parked in cars along E 162nd Street between Prospect and Westchester Avenues. 
They realizes they have too many arrestees to put in their van, so they march them down towards Westchester Ave.
They are all corralled onto a commandeered city bus from the corner of E 162 Street and E 163 Street.

 

Angry Mob

Other officers round up radical activists, carting them out of 897 Melrose Avenue (even though the sign says 806) and loading them into a paddy wagon.
As the crowd gets more agitated by what they perceive as unlawful arrests, the cops quickly drive south on Melrose Avenue towards E 161 Street.
After the paddy wagon drives off, the angry mob marches to the police station, walking past 421 E 161 Street.
The mob eventually surrounds the station house, amassing in front of the extant building at 3114 Third Avenue.
Officers stand on the rooftop, ready to act.
The Captain tells the Sargent to fire teargas into the crowd if they don’t disperse in five minutes.

 

 

Meeting the Kids

As Murphy and Isabella become closer, she is introduced to his kids on a median strip in front of 1555 Grand Concourse.

 

A Deadly Fire

The entire 41 Precinct is called to assist at a large riot outside a burning building at 1034 Hoe Avenue.
Murphy and Corelli arrive on the scene, driving onto an empty lot at 1084 E 165th Street.
They run inside 1057 Hoe Avenue to apprehend some rioters throwing items off the roof.
After restraining the two rioters on the rooftop, Murphy and Corelli witness officer Morgan throw a kid off the roof of 1038 Hoe Avenue.

 

 

Contemplating in the Park

Corelli exits his car from the southeast corner of E 167 Street and Fulton Avenue, across from Augustine Church.
Atop a small hill in Estella Diggs Park, Murphy tells his partner that he is going to turn Morgan in for the roof killing. But Corelli convinces him not to rush into any hasty decisions.

 

 

Isabella and Murphy in the Park

Later on, feeling broken and confused, Murphy invites Isabella to have lunch with him in Crotona Park.
The couple sits on a bench by a playground, across from the building at 887 Crotona Park North.
Still feeling conflicted about what to do about Morgan, Murphy finds solace in Isabella’s company

 

 

 

The Heroin Dealers

Murphy and Isabella have an argument as he drives her home, traveling past the Gospel Hill Baptist Church at 3265 Third Avenue.
Isabella asks Murphy to let her out of the car at the corner of Boston Road and Third Avenue so she can walk home. But instead of going home, she goes to see her dealers to score some H. 

 

 

Isabella Overdoses

The next morning, still high on a tainted dose of heroin, Isabella stumbles out of her apartment building at 416 E. 10th Street in Manhattan.
Shuffling like a zombie, she slowly makes her way east.
She continues on, passing 420 E 10h Street.
She finally collapses in front of 422 E 10th Street, where passersby run to her aid!!!!!!!!

 

 

Racing to Hospital

Later on, Murphy and Corelli get a call that a bunch of people have been taken hostage at Isabella’s hospital and speed to the scene, passing  Blue Bell Lumber at 501 E 164 Street.
Murphy and several other cops arrive at the hospital at 1276 Fulton Avenue.
Corelli gets out of the car and heads towards the Fulton Division of the hospital, which is just south of the main entrance.
He and Murphy rush in, thinking that Isabella is one of the hostages.
The action jumps by about three miles when Murphy volunteers to scale the hospital building, which took place at 1919 Madison Avenue in Manhattan.

 

Murphy Depressed

After discovering Isabella died of an overdose, a melancholy Murphy walks east on Westchester Avenue under the IRT, approaching 969 Intervale Avenue.

 

 

The Final Chase

After Murphy turns Morgan in and decides to quit the force, he and Corelli see a familiar thief slipping out of a second story window at 322 Anthony Avenue
Since he is still officially a police officer, Murphy decides to go on one last chase, hoping to finally nab the purse-snatcher who keeps alluding him.
They reach the end of Anthony Avenue, jump out of their car, and run west towards Clay Avenue.
The purse-snatcher runs south on Clay Avenue, crossing over the Cross Bronx Expressway.
Murphy and Corelli cross the overpass, hot on the thief’s tail.
They scramble down the steps that run between 300 E 174th Street and the Expressway.
The action jumps about a mile east where the two cops chase the thief north on Seabury Place.
The camera tilts down to reveal a rug that is wrapped around the body of Charlotte, who was killed by the heroin dealers, tossed with the garbage at 1521 Charlotte Street.

 

 

 

 

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