THE WASHING MACHINE (1993) DVD Review
Also known as Vortice Mortale
Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Written by Luigi Spagnol
Starring Philippe Caroit, Ilaria Borrelli, Katarzyna Figura & Barbara Ricci
Out 25th August from Shameless Screen Entertainment
It’s sex, lies and dismemberment in this twisty-turny erotic thriller; a giallo-tinged sexer from Cannibal Holocaust helmer Ruggero Deodato. Though lacking the brutal power of that said gut-muncher, and not quite capturing the same kind of spiteful excitement that makes the likes of House on the Edge of the Park and Cut & Run so essential, The Washing Machine is nonetheless a required look for those familiar with this often underrated spaghetti splat journeyman. It’s certainly tacky and downright bizarre enough to hold one’s attention – casual horror lovers or those who find the Italian stuff already indecipherable, however, should probably give it an exceptionally wide berth.
Continuing Deodato’s fascination with ghastly occurrences rooted in reality (“I don’t like films with a fantasy element,” he once told Eye For Film’s Jennie Kermode. “If I make a horror film I want the horror to come from something realistic, not something made up.”), The Washing Machine finds Budapest detective Alexander Stacev (Frenchman Philippe Caroit, leading a pretty damn good multi-national cast) investigating the peculiar case of some poor sod who’s been hacked to pieces and stuffed inside the titular white appliance… Well, allegedly anyway. The problem is there’s actually no sign of the gorily disjointed body, even though the supposed victim – sleazy pimp Yuri, played with zest by Yorgo Voyagis – is nowhere to be found either.
Soon, Stacev is in Polanski-aping territory and at the mercy of Yuri’s lover Vida (Katarzyna Figura, billed as Kashia) and her two sisters, Maria (Ilaria Borrelli) and Ludmilla (Barbara Ricci); becoming a plaything in their strange, cat-and-mouse love quadrangle…
It’s spicy stuff for sure, even if the simulated bonking veers more towards absurd smut than anything particularly sexy. Though slightly reminiscent of Paul Verhoeven’s psychosexual horror-comic The Fourth Man, The Washing Machine is closer to the type of soft-core silliness that Channel 5 used to broadcast late on a Friday evening; the same kind of murder mystery T&A fluff that Shannon Tweed would have excelled in, just a little more Euro-pudding. Deodato of course directs with his usual gusto, assuredly embracing both the occasional splashes of grue and Figura’s pneumatic chest in typically unreserved fashion.
It’s during the weirder, quieter moments where he really excels though; the moments in which the increasingly bewildered Stacev tries to piece together just what the hell is actually going on playing like a macabre and surreal joke. Deodato conjures up a pleasingly off-kilter mood, one perfectly served by cinematographer Sergio D’Offizi (who also lensed the director’s Cannibal Holocaust and House on the Edge of the Park, as well as Lucio Fulci’s exquisite giallo Don’t Torture a Duckling) who’s cool colour palette also compliments the Budapest locations rather nicely. It’s a pleasure to look at, and Shameless’ unremarkable transfer is solid enough to do it justice: It’s watchable, even if it’s a touch on the hazy side thanks to a dodgy compression job.
The Washing Machine is no classic, mind you; there’s far too much narrative flab for that. Italian television writer Luigi Spagnol’s script piles on the intrigue, but it’s too rambling when it should be twisting the suspense screws; too unfocused when it should be razor sharp. Moreover, both he and Deodato can’t quite keep the pace going; it kicks off with a bang but peters out before ending with a nonsensical damp squib. There’s still plenty to enjoy though in this stylish and entertaining potboiler; it won’t convert anyone to the church of bloody Italian chills, but it’ll certainly satisfy the parishioners already worshipping within it.
On the extras front, Shameless‘ disc is an odd one: Bells and whistles with its swanky-looking, Graham Humphreys-designed metal tin packaging (this critic was privy to the check disc only, sadly) but almost completely devoid of anything additional feature wise. There’s a cute easter egg spotlighting Deodato’s nosey neighbour cameo and a surprisingly lacklustre selection of on-set stills; compared with the slew of specially produced extras the company prepared for their new cuts of Cannibal Holocaust and House on the Edge of the Park though, it’s damn disappointing.
Reportedly unhappy with the finished product, it would have been interesting to hear what Deodato himself has to say on the project. And with the likes of Death Waltz Records et al creating a fresh demand for horror soundtracks of late – Italian especially – the lack of an isolated score option to showcase the splendid work of Goblin man Claudio Simonetti is a bit of a missed opportunity too.
Still, it’s hard not to recommend it, if only for the chance to pick up this dotty little movie itself. Shameless‘ package is the first time The Washing Machine has been available since a small VHS release back in 1999, and the fact that things like this are getting released into the ever more difficult British market is something to be applauded. Hopefully, with enough sales, Shameless will be able to whip up a few more Deodato releases; uncut versions of his poliziotteschi Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man and his American sylvan slasher Body Count would be most welcome indeed…
The film 6/10
The disc 3/10
The Washing Machine is available on Amazon from HERE
And visit Shameless Films site & shop HERE
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