New York Illustrated: Saturday Night at Fort Apache

First Aired on NBC

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            After checking out the documentary film The Police Tapes and enjoying it so much, the same friend who pointed me in the direction of the documentary gave me a heads up on another set in the same time period.  The video sent to me takes place in a part of the South Bronx known by the members of the NYPD 41st Precinct as Fort Apache.

            Saturday Night at Fort Apache is an episode of a long-running weekly documentary series that ran on NBC called New York Illustrated.  The episode ran in March of 1973, but was filmed in February.  Narrated by Norman Rose, Saturday Night at Fort Apache offered viewers the opportunity to see just what it was like to work as a police officer on one of the busiest nights in the poverty stricken streets of the 41st Precinct. 

            Like The Police Tapes, the viewer is treated to actual ride-alongs and arrests and gets to see roll call, hear the views of patrolmen, sergeants and lieutenants who have worked the streets of an area with some of the highest crime rates in New York City.  Viewers are introduced to the undercover anticrime units as well as the uniformed patrol officers.  They also get to see what it is like at Lincoln Hospital, the chief provider of emergency medical care in the area on a typical crime-ridden night in Fort Apache.

             Of course, there are differences between The Police Tapes and Saturday Night at Fort Apache.  First of all, Saturday Night at Fort Apache is filmed in color.  Second, it gives viewers insight into the undercover anticrime units of the area - their job, what sort of people are assigned to these units, the danger involved, etc.  The Police Tapes was filmed over the course of three months and displays numerous nights worth of police responses, whereas Saturday Night at Fort Apache focuses on one of the busiest nights in any big city police officer's work week. 

            While I found Saturday Night at Fort Apache to be entertaining and informative, nothing beats The Police Tapes as far as thoroughness goes.  After watching Saturday Night at Fort Apache, the viewer feels they've gotten a glimpse into what these officers went through at the time, but The Police Tapes gives you a thorough retrospective view of the crime in the South Bronx and the sorts of cops who worked this difficult area. 

            If you are interested in the history of the Bronx and its police force, especially at a time when crime was on a considerable rise, New York Illustrated: Saturday Night at Fort Apache is worth watching, but I would strongly advise checking out The Police Tapes as well.

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