At the beginning of the 20th century, Les Brigades Régionales de Police Mobile (Regional Mobile Police Brigades) more popularly known as Les Brigades du Tigre (The Tiger's Brigades) came into being.
Founded by then-minister Georges "Le Tigre" Clemenceau, they were introduced to tackle a wave of modern organised crime and a growing Anarchist terror threat. Skilled in Savate, a street form of French Kickboxing, Les Brigades employed new inventions in their investigations. Fingerprinting, the telegraph and the automobile became part of Les Brigades' arsenal.
The critically acclaimed series of Les Brigades du Tigre (1974-1983) follows a trio of detectives, Commissaire Valentin (Jean-Claude Bouillon), Inspecteur Terrasson (Pierre Maguelon) and Inspecteur Pujol (Jean-Paul Tribout) through their exploits from 1907 to 1930.
Each fictional adventure is interwoven with historical, socio-political and scientific events such as the Entente Cordiale, The Black Hand, the discovery of the atom, as well as the Suffragette movement. The viewer delves into another era with each episode opening with an animated prologue bestowing historical context.
Episode themes reflect the apprehensions of a rapidly developing society in the face of globalisation. Each unique narrative is beautifully crafted with refined attention to historical detail.
Nevertheless, these escapades rarely fall into the pitfalls of inadvertently creating either a dry or sombre atmosphere. The trio's fluid performances maintain a light-hearted perspective. In turn, the dynamic tone ranges from action and humour (the 30mph car chases are particularly entertaining) to dreading suspense.
The famed ragtime pianist, Claude Bolling glazes the nostalgic atmosphere with a retro flavoured soundtrack. The anachronistic instruments exude the charm of the show complementing the colourful aesthetics.
Unfortunately, outside of France, the series is all but unknown save for a cinematic remake in 2006 that didn't quite do the original justice. Despite this, the BBC's Ripper Street seems to have appropriated some of Les Brigades' themes for their gritty Victorian London. Les Brigades du Tigre was conceived by its creator, Claude Desailly, to be France's equivalent of the 1959 US TV- Series, The Untouchables. Nevertheless, their escapades are both a unique experience and a joy to watch.
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