’80 Blocks From Tiffany’s’ finally coming to DVD

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Shame on me for missing this news when it first popped up in August. This cultiest of all cult documentaries/essential piece of NY history has languished in obscurity for far too long, being available only via fuzzy bootlegs and grainy youtube vids (the ultrarare official VHS version now goes for $100+). This fall it’s finally being re-released, restored and refurbished with all sorts of bonus features and added materials. Judging by the DVD trailer above the image quality seems as good as it can possibly be. No exact release date yet, but if it actually comes out it will be one of the year’s more essential DVD offerings. Cover art and official press release below the jump.

via Five Day Weekend

Five Day Weekend and Traffic Entertainment are proud to announce the upcoming DVD release of 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s, director Gary Weis‘ 1979 documentary about the South Bronx and its gang culture. The previously unavailable film will be released in the Fall of 2010, the first time it has been offered to the public in decades, and will be accompanied by a handful of exciting bonus features.

Director Gary Weis was still working as a short film creator for Saturday Night Live when he came up with the idea for80 Blocks after reading a Jon Bradshaw article, “Savage Skulls.” Published in a 1977 issue of Esquire Magazine, the piece centered on two gangs based in the South Bronx at the time — the Savage Nomads and theSavage Skulls. Weis became infatuated with the story and, soon after striking up a dialogue with Bradshaw, he convinced SNL producer Lorne Michaels to help him produce the film. Just two years later, in 1979, Weis and Bradshaw brought a camera crew to speak with members of both gangs, along with police officers, community activists, and civilians.

Despite its role as an important and unflinching portrait of a profoundly interesting time in New York’s cultural history, 80 Blocks was, for many years, impossible to find, only briefly available as an educational VHS release in 1985. In the years since its initial release, the documentary has gained an overwhelming cult status. With little to no news coverage over the decades since its release dedicated fans continued to buzz about the film. That buzz grewexponentially via the internet, which provided fans a common platform to fondly look back not only the at documentary itself, but the era that it captured so vividly.

The cries of many have been heard. For the first time in 25 years, the soon-to-be-released DVD will be accessible by the public, and will include interviews with producer/filmmaker Weis and director of photography Joan Churchill, as well as a 40 page book comprised of the original “Savage Skulls” article, an essay by David Hollander, and artwork by Julian Allen. All of this is, of course, to accompany both full and widescreen versions of the film that started it all.

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