Police sirens, gunshots and accelerated steps warned that the most popular Peruvian police series of the 1980s was about to begin. “Gamboa” was made in Peru television’s response to canned gringos like “Starsky and Hutch”, “Kojak” and Baretta. “Gamboa” was not the only entertainment option about law enforcement and criminals of that decade, but it did work the best.
Conceived in 1983, under the direction of Luis Llosa Urquidi, the fiction of Panamericana Televisión had Eduardo Cesti in the star role. The experienced actor gave life to Gamboa, a major of the then Peruvian Investigation Police (PIP) in charge of unraveling the most fierce police cases of that time, at the hands of Ensign ‘Kike’ Maldonado (Jorge García Bustamante) and the ‘Chato’ Campos (Ramón García).
In its three different stages, the production of the series fell on: Margarita Morales, Susana Bamonde and Michelle Alexander. “‘Gamboa’ was an idea by Lucho (Llosa), he loved the genre, that’s why he proposed to Genaro (Delgado Párker) to make unit on police officers once a week. We went out every Wednesday at nine at night. It was a well-crafted job, the actors received instructions from the PIP in relation to handling weapons and investigative tactics”Morales remembers.
Channel 5’s fiction had a profound impact on the viewer and its protagonists. Ramón García, who in addition to acting was in charge of directing the casting, recalls this television stage with great nostalgia.
“We had a lot of fun filming, we were crazy, we did risky things. Most of the cases were real, it seems to me that they were provided by the criminology department of the police”, Says the actor, to later explain how he created the loyal ‘Chato’ Campos.
“I named it in honor of a schoolmate (from the Leoncio Prado Military College). It was inspired a bit by Al Pacino’s Serpico (NYPD agent Frank Serpico). As I had a military education, it was not difficult for me to build the character. At that time he was quite agile, weighed 60 kilos and had belonged to the school’s athletic team “, refers.
In the memorable opening scene of the Peruvian production, Gamboa appeared in the Callao fishing port, distracted, fishing, when someone interrupts him to offer him a case. Almost four decades have passed since the show premiered and the viewer continues to relate Cesti to his role as the Investigative Police officer who ended up as a private detective.
“‘Gamboa’ revolutionized national television, it was cinema with a television format, since Lucho carried the code of the cinematographic visual language. For this project he got together with Cusi Barrio and Pepe Huayhuaca. We made leaks, we recorded outdoors, we used locations far from Lima. All this represented a great investment of time. The first episode, I think it was called ‘The Great Robbery’, based on an assault on a truck that brought money from the Banco de la Nación de La Oroya along the Central Highway, was recorded in two or three weeks. The channel was surprised because recording a chapter of a soap opera took a maximum of two days”Garcia evokes.
The other side of the coin
Parallel to “Gamboa”, Channel 5 had another police series on its television schedule, but from the Civil Guard: “Barragán”. This production did not have the success of the one starring Cesti due to the enormous restrictions that the filmmakers would have had to carry out the project.
“Despite having an important cast of actors, ‘Barragán’ did not work because it had the permanent supervision of the Civil Guard. They checked their scripts, they even told them what to do“Details the great national actor who was part of the HBO production” The New Pope. “
Among the innumerable anecdotes that he lived in the series, García remembers – with special lucidity – the day when a police officer called his attention because of the way he spoke about his character. “He told me: ‘Investigative police don’t talk like that‘. I replied: ‘You are absolutely right, because you speak like criminals. ‘ It is that a policeman cannot be neat in his vocabulary because he interacts daily with people who speak ‘another language’. To understand the enemy you have to speak their language”.
Women played a leading role in the series. Almost a decade after winning the Miss Peru Universe, Lourdes Berninzon Devéscovi made her first appearance on the small screen as an actress playing a villain without scruples or shame. Diana Quijano Valdivieso also made her way into acting, in the role of a daring policewoman. The first on Peruvian TV.
One of the most important chapters of Panamericana TV fiction was the “The rapture of the bride”, Written by the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa (Luis Llosa’s cousin), and starring Marilda Castro, Ricardo Blume, José Enrique Mavila and Juan Manuel Ochoa.
“It was a super delivery, it lasted two episodes. Such a thing had never been done on Peruvian television. We had helicopters, we had chases, we filmed in Huachipa, in Morro Solar. It was good”, Details Margarita Morales.
“The first villain I did on television was ‘El Místico’, in the relaunch of ‘Gamboa’. I was a beginner, as we are talking about the early eighties. In the story I kidnap Marilda and after a long chase, she leaves everyone perplexed by revealing that she had fallen in love with me. For the first time in that television series, the antagonist won and the protagonist bit the dust of his defeat. There I realized that this was my path in acting. Somehow the award-winning writer discovered me as evil”, Juan Manuel Ochoa pointed out about that chapter in a interview with The Republic.
Over time, “Gamboa” went from being a weekly program to a daily one, with the protagonist retired from the police and transformed into a private investigator. In a second stage, Cesti had Antonio Arút (Ensign Reátegui) and Víctor Prada (‘Rata’ Murguía) as action adventure companions. And in a last attempt to overcome the decline in which she was, Llosa added Javier Solis Llerena and Alfredo Álvarez Calderón (a Peruvian actor who went international, appearing periodically in the American production of ‘Miami Vice’) to the ranks of her product. Despite the drastic changes, the Peruvian police series did not regain the brightness of its beginnings and – irremediably – went into retirement.