1981 Movie “Fighting Back” Filmed In And Around Frankford

fighting back 1Of the three movies we’ve found so that have been filmed in Frankford, Fighting Back is the one that I enjoyed the most.  It stars Tom Skerritt(remember him from Top Gun?  HE WAS VIPER!).  A lot of the action happens down at McPherson Square in Kensington where Skeritt plays a deli owner across from the part who’s sick of the crime and drugs plagueing his neighborhood.  The movie really scatters the locations, like his neighborhood crime task force meets down by the Walt Whitman bridge and “his neighborhood” appears to stretch from deep in Kensington all the way up to Frankford.  It always irks me when movie makers just blend different pieces of Philly just to make a movie.  It’s like when Rocky does his awesome run from Kensington to South Philly to Fairmount Park to Center City back to the Art Museum.  Awesome run, not real acurate that he’d go for a 36 mile morning jog.  Anyway, I digress.  It’s a pretty good movie if you’re into that Dirty Harry/Charles Bronson vigilante action, and I am.  Only problem is that you can’t get it on DVD.  I got a former rental video from Amazon for $7 including shipping.  I got an ex rental store copy so the tracking sucked for the first 20 minutes.  Remember tracking?  The joys of VHS man. It was a bargain if you’re into Frankford film history(which is really cool since I didn’t know we had any).

Update from Ken Karpinski in May of 2016: ….needs 1982 as its U.S. release year. Any references to its opening credits’ footages and narration about violence since 1963 ?

The movie had some clutch parts, like when our protagonist dropped a grenade on a pimp’s car and then got elected counselman. And there were some good Frankford scenes.  Like when he’s in the car with his family and a pimp chases him all the way up to Penn and Orthodox and crashes him onto the sidewalk; ON PENN STREET.  His mother’s house is by Penn and Orthodox too, at one point she locks herself in after a robber cuts her finger off and his kid has to go get a priest.  And the whole scene I’m thinking “which freakin house is that”.  Cause it’s unmistabley Penn Street.  I know it’s Penn Street.  I KNOW IT.  I just can’t pinpoint it.  Those three story victorian joints between Orthodox and Arrott are unmistakable.

I will absolutely get some screen shots as soon as I figure out how to convert VHS to digital for as cheap as possible.

fighting back 2

We’re gathering quite a collection of movies that have been filmed in Frankford.  Check out the comments from our Pride of the Marines post to see how I came to hear about this nugget of information.  It all started because frequent Gazette commenter Joseph swears that the house at Arrott and Pilling is in a movie.  Sorry Joeseph, I didn’t see it in Fighting Back.  But it was a cool flick non the less.  But that still leaves us with a mystery.  Can anybody identify the movie that this house was in?house at pilling and arrott exported

Update: We got a comment from a former owner of this house:

That house was infact from the movie Fighting Back. I lived in that house for 17 years. Trust me it was in the movie. In the movie Fighting back their are two different houses used as the Tom Skeritt’s house. The outside of the house is a home at Penn + Overington St. The inside of the house was my house,1329 Arrott St. The famous scene from the movie where the dog is found dead hanging on the door in the bathroom is actually my bedroom. I moved into that house in 1983. The movie was filmed their in 1981. The former owners before my mother bought the house was a family with the last name McMaster. During filming they were put up in the Korman Suites for the 2 months they filmed the movie.

  • Burke

    That house was used in the filming of Blow Out with John Travolta. Definitely true as I remember the film crews. I can’t verify that the house made the cut into the final version of the movie but there’s no doubt in my mind. I grew up two blocks from there.

  • Jim

    Nope, I watched Blow Out. I didn’t see it in there. John Travolta lived in the top two floors of the house next to the Betsy Ross house. I saw tons of location shots but non that ventured out of center city.

  • joseph

    I remember a film being shot at that house. I grew up down the street, but I do not remember the name of the film. One person told me it was “Blow Out” and another told me it was “fighting back.” I knew of the Burke family on Oakland street.

  • Jim

    I would be really disappointed to hear the location was for Blow Out but it didn’t make the final cut. After watching Blow Out and Fighting Back I’ve been excited to see another web visitor come up with a Frankford related movie. It’s been neat discovering that some pretty good movies have been made in Frankford. This has been fun.

    I will watch Blow Out again on some lazy Sunday just to double check. I wouldn’t put it past myself to miss it, although I doubt it.

  • Burke

    Different Burkes (Foulkrod and Horrocks). Jim, as I wrote in my previous post, I can’t guarantee the house made it into the movie. I’ll take your word that it didn’t, but I have no doubt it was used in Blow Out. Could have been an interior shot or just one that didn’t make it off the cutting room floor. Anyway, Penn’s Landing made it into the film as did Wissahicken. It was the talk of the neighborhood as they were shooting and I saw the film crew there and remember asking someone working on the shoot.

  • joseph

    I’m asking my brother and sister to write here. I was young 11 or 12 at the time of the filming. I just remember the very bright lights and movie cameras. I think they filmed that house for 2 weeks. I just got off the phone with a friend of mine and he also said it was Blow out????????? I think we would remember if John Travolta was on our street right? It makes sense that it would be Fighting Back because of the locations that Jim talked about.(Penn&Orthodox) I will watch both movies in the near future.

  • Anonymous

    Mike Burke?

  • Anonymous

    it was blow out, also who remembers the movie the woodsman with kevin beacon filmed in wissinoming park

  • lademore

    I can almost guarantee this was in Fighting Back. A lot of the movie was filmed INSIDE this house.

  • lademore

    I had a Girlfriend who lived on Pilling street who got to meet Michael Sarazin during the filming of Fighting Back. Pilling street crosses Arrott and that house is at the end of Pilling Street block. Why would Sarazin be there, if not filming THAT (Fighting Back) movie?

  • crazymommy

    What about the movie “JESUS’S SON” wasn’t that filmed in Frankford too in the 90’s. Queen’s Diner scene. And wasn’t a scene from Shamilon’s last movie filmed at FTC?

  • Burke

    Yep, Mike Burke. Who’s asking?

    I was also pretty young when Blow Out was filmed/released. My recollection doesn’t come from seeing the movie but from the stir it made in the neighborhood during filming. I frequently walked past there on my way home from school. By the way, it’s possible the house was used in more than one movie; or perhaps none at all!

  • Jim

    I just watched Blow Out again at 5x speed. Still didn’t see the house.

  • Burke

    Ha! Probably the best way to watch that movie. I watched Cast Away with Tom Hanks at 2x speed and didn’t miss a thing.

  • joseph

    I think there was a porn movie filmed inside that house also. Damn house has history! To bad we don’t know the movie they filmed in that freakin’ place. I’m more confused.

  • Anonymous

    Dunno

  • joseph

    didn’t they film a porno in the house also? That house has history! Even so I’m still so confused.

  • joseph

    Wasn’t there a porno filmed in that house also? Damn that house has history! Even so I’m very confused about what freakin’ movie was filmed in that house. That half-house! Whats up with that anyway. Did they run out of money when building that place? Its clearly not the look they were going for was it? Maybe the other half burnt down? I’ll have to do some research that will be a project for another day.

  • joseph

    any porn movies filmed in that house?

  • Anonymous

    Blow Out

  • joseph

    Wasn’t there a porn movie filmed at that house also? :}

  • joseph

    wasn’t there a porn movie filmed at that house also? Geez I’m so confused now!

  • joseph

    I’m confused now!

  • joseph

    wasn’t there a porn movie filmed at that house also? I’m so confused!

  • roy

    it was a porn movie

  • RW

    Fighting Back was definitely filmed at that house- 1329 Arrott St. My friends used to live there.

  • Anonymous

    RW what are the last name? I might know them?

  • joseph

    is the house exterior in any of these movies. (jim says NO) Is the interior of this house in any movie these movies? How do we know what scene is the actual house? Tomorrow I’m going in! Well, I’ll knock first. I kinda hope its a halfway house cause they’ll let me takes some pic’s.

  • JohnS

    That house was infact from the movie Fighting Back. I lived in that house for 17 years. Trust me it was in the movie. In the movie Fighting back their are two different houses used as the Tom Skeritt’s house. The outside of the house is a home at Penn + Overington St. The inside of the house was my house,1329 Arrott St. The famous scene from the movie where the dog is found dead hanging on the door in the bathroom is actually my bedroom. I moved into that house in 1983. The movie was filmed their in 1981. The former owners before my mother bought the house was a family with the last name McMaster. During filming they were put up in the Korman Suites for the 2 months they filmed the movie.

  • Jim

    Wow JohnS, that’s definitive enough for me. I’d consider the mystery solved on that.

  • JohnS

    Joseph it’s not a halfway house. We sold the home in 2000 to an asian family named Luu. They still live there. Them dirtballs still have the same curtains up and the same toys in the yard my sisters used to play with.

  • Burke

    Blow Out was filmed a few years before John “Dirtballs” S moved in there. Might be definitive about Fighting Back, but Blow Out is still an open question I’d say. JohnS, do you know who lived there before you?

  • Burke

    By the way, it looks like that house was originally a duplex. There are some very cool houses in that area, especially on Leiper Street. Wonder when that one on Arrott was built.

  • JohnS

    Was never a duplex. Looks like it was cut right in half but it wasn’t. The owners before my family moved there was Michael McMaster. I think he was a Doctor or something. I lived there from 1983-2000. Obviously when I left in 2000 the area had changed so bad. Great house. I have so many dreams about my childhood there. It had 8 bedrooms,6 bathrooms 2 full. huge basement and attic. Used to go on the roof from the attic with my brother and drink beers up there. Great times.

  • JohnS

    No, Blowout with Travolta was never filmed in my house.

  • JohnS

    Someone said they were gonna knock on the door. I would love to do a walk thru of the house again. They may even remember me.

  • Warren Seale

    The house was built between 1894 and 1901. Here the 1894 map shows the lot was owned by J.S. McMaster:

    http://www.philageohistory.org/rdic-images/view-image.cfm/BRM1894.PhilaWards23_35.007.Plate3

    Here the 1901 map shows the house on the lot:

    http://www.philageohistory.org/rdic-images/view-image.cfm/BRM1901.Phila.050.Plate46

    Warren

  • RW

    John!! I think you know who this is. That was a great house. I was up on the back roof a few times…

  • JohnS

    RW whats up..I got your message last week but lost all the numbers in my contacts when i upgraded the software on my iPhone. text me so i can store your number again

  • joseph

    WOW!!!!!! I’m not confused anymore. That settles it right? Warren you and them damn maps you are the man as I said before. JohnS thanks for straightening things out for us knuckle-heads. No need to knock on any doors tonight huh.

  • JohnS

    no need at all joey

  • JohnS

    To reiterate what Joesph said the maps where very cool Warren. Thanks

  • Anonymous

    not a halfway house, you said their name was Luu? do u still want to go down for maybe a little washy-washy?

  • JohnS

    haha its possible.

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