80 Blocks From Tiffany’s is a 1979 documentary which looks at the day to day lives of gangs in the South Bronx, it looked at the workings of two gangs – the African American ‘Savage Skulls’ gang and the Puerto Rican gang ‘Savage Nomads’. The documentary provides a great insight into the social decay of the Bronx during the seventies, with a look at the various social issues which existed in the area including high unemployment, drug abuse, and prostitution.
The documentary was released on VHS in 1985 and later released on DVD in 2010 leading to a revival in interest in the film which now has an important historical significance, offering some of the best footage of the Bronx during the era. The film captures the deprivation of the area which was so bad at the time that Presidents Carter and Reagan would visit the area whenever they needed a photo opportunity which would showcase their commitment to tackling urban decay. Perhaps the equivalent in the 21st century would be the deserted suburbs of Detroit.
The film was almost lost to history, TV stations rejected it while its 1985 VHS release was merely a limited run for educational organisations. It wasn’t until the documentary found itself uploaded online that it gained a new cult following, mainly among hip-hop fans who appreciated the opportunity to gain an insight into the area at around the period that hip hop was born. It was the success online that prompted its special edition 2010 DVD release (the DVD contains loads of extra footage, extended interviews, a 40 page booklet and a copy of the Esquire magazine article which inspired the documentaries creation).