International Prostitution: Brigade Criminelle (1980)

Directed by Sergio Gobbi
Starring Laura Gemser, Jean-Louis Broust, Gabriele Tinti
Release Date: June 18, 1980
88 Minutes/Color

The venerable Joe D’Amato wasn’t the only director to see the value of photographing Laura Gemser undraped in exotic locales. Her career was truly international, with romps through the United States, Egypt, Greece and, for Sergio Gobbi’s INTERNATIONAL PROSTITUTION: BRIGADE CRIMINELLE, Hong Kong. A police thriller, the film is a change of pace for Gemser. Here she enjoys a more relaxed role than that of the globe-trotting, bed-hopping Black Emanuelle.

Having grown tired of “the life,” a young prostitute flees her pimp (the charmingly-scary Gabriele Tinti as Tony Marcone), and finds deadly comeuppance at his hands. Marcone is quickly captured in Hong Kong, and police detective Philippe Dega (Jean-Louis Broust) is sent from Paris to collect him and bring him to justice.

Handcuffing himself to the murderous pimp, Dega finds himself stuck with a nine-hour layover for the flight back to France. Still shackled to his captor, Marcone charms the detective into taking in the sordid delights of Hong Kong.

Distancing itself from the average European police drama of the period, Gobbi keeps the tone light. The two men take in a strip show, drink, carouse and engage the services of two pleasure girls – all while still handcuffed to each other. The latter scene is particularly amusing. With Dega lost in post-coital distraction, Marcone seizes this opportunity to escape, showing us that our hero is as prone to thinking with his penis than with his head as anyone else. Humiliated, Dega enlists the help of the murdered woman’s sister Tazzi, played by the striking Gemser. The two go deep into the underworld of Hong Kong, hatching a plan to lure Marcone from hiding and take him into custody. Of course, this being a European police thriller, the two fall in love in a whirl of travelogue footage, neon lights, and a catchy synth score.

Sergio Gobbi separates this film from other police dramas in a number of interesting ways. While most directors spent reel after reel focusing on Laura Gemser’s body, Gobbi focuses on her eyes. This allows her more subtle emoting to come across, and makes her a sympathetic character rather than just a sultry mannequin. There are a number of sex scenes in the picture, though Gemser participates in but one of them. The relationship between Dega and Tazzi is played out emotionally, rather than erotically.

Broust’s Dega isn’t the usual square-jawed, cynical hero either. He’s fallible, and relies more on momentary cunning and opportunity than on his fists or a gun. In fact, I cannot recall a single shot fired in the entire picture, unheard of in a police film of the day. Gobbi keeps things moving with many-a film trope in place. This makes for an undemanding, though entertaining, watch. INTERNATIONAL PROSTITUTION, despite the lurid title, plays out like a TV movie with the right ratio of action, sexuality and spectacle.

As for the aforementioned spectacle, the obligatory travelogue footage around Hong Kong is nicely captured by Jean Badal’s camera. The synth-heavy score by Thierry Geoffroy and Christian Villers gets the job done, and includes a lounge-ready vocal ode to the character of Tazzi, performed in a style reminiscent of Nico Fidenco’s Black Emanuelle ditties. There are a few odd editing choices, though it is possible that the print I viewed had been cut down for time or content. The running time of my print spanned 78 minutes, while the IMDb lists the film as running for 88. The version I viewed was dubbed into German without subtitles, and was perhaps a TV print. It would be unusual for a German release to omit much in the way of violence or nudity for home video.

INTERNATIONAL PROSTITUTION doesn’t break any new ground, but it really isn’t trying to. It’s entertainment, pure and simple. While there are no official English-friendly releases at the time of this writing, the German-dubbed print isn’t too hard to find. Some grey market editions also include English subtitles. For fans of brisk thrillers with a sprinkle of romance, or of the delightful Laura Gemser, you could do a lot worse.

-Johnny Stanwyck

Photo Gallery

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Other Films Starring Laura Gemser

Emanuelle Around the World
Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals
Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade

Sleaze for the true cinephile.

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