"Director Ruggero Deodato has the dubious honour of being the man who, almost twenty years ago, created ”CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST”. This is one of the most infamous films of all time and has been described as a ”savage, beautifully distressing masterpiece”. Now, Deodato has made perhaps his finest film, ”THE WASHING MACHINE”, a take on the giallo - a genre of Italian pulp thriller - containing all the essential elements; sex, lies, murder, elaborate plot twists and, of course, dangerous ladies...
The film centres around a police inspector who is called in to investigate a young woman’s claim to have found a body in her washing machine. At the scene of the ”crime” there is no corpse. Instead the inspector finds three beautiful sisters who entangle him in a dangerous web of sexual obsession, fantasy and intrigue."
” I’m not at all pleased with the final result
because it’s a very intimate movie and should have had well-known actors,
which it does not. So, after a few minutes it collapses...”
- Ruggero Deodato on THE WASHING MACHINE
Well, intimate or not, it only goes to show that Deodato doesn’t have a clue as to what he is doing. Personally I must admit I’ve always considered him something of a hack, a true exploitation filmmaker in the worst sense of the word. Actually in the same article he goes on to say that the stomach turning CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1979) is his best film on the count (no pun intended) of that it made ”something in the range of today’s equivalent of 200 billion lire!”. Of course it is not that uncommon for film directors to talk about success in earnings but with Deodato it seems more important than the actual result of the film. Anyone who has seen BODYCOUNT (1987) will know what I mean. Or to quote Deodato’s own comment on the film; ”In fact, it did well both in Italy and abroad”. Well, what ever makes you sleep at night Ruggero!
What ever he says THE WASHING MACHINE must be hailed as one of his most enjoyable films, however bizarre, sleazy and periodically unfathomable. Maybe the fact that he gave up on it is what makes it good. Maybe he couldn’t commit himself to putting that Deodato touch on it. If that is so, thank you Ruggero!
The action takes place in Budapest, which not only makes it stand apart from most gialli but also makes for beautiful and almost gothic settings, where a police inspector is called to investigate a young woman’s claim to have found her sisters boyfriend dead inside her washing machine. Upon arrival the body is gone without a trace and the sister is accused by her siblings to be a drunkard with a far too lively imagination. However as the boyfriend is missing, the inspector has not seen the last of the three sisters as the pursue him to force, lure and entice him to start an investigation of the alleged murder.
The first thing to strike you about THE WASHING MACHINE is it’s blatant rip-off of Dario Argento’s visual style. Also, If it wasn’t for the quite generous portions of wild sex the story’s intricate web of lies, blackmail and voyeurism could easily pass for a topic for Argento next film. But as it stands now the general sleazy (”intimate”, Deodato?) atmosphere with dialogue like; ”Why do you think she spied on us, half naked, every time we came home, standing in the shadows, pretending not to be seen? We could see her watching us, which only made it more exciting. We’d do things for her alone, making sure she could always see us. That night we gave her quite a show, we could have sold tickets. Does this excite you Inspector?”, propellers the whole film back to the early 70’s gialli in tone. For it is the excessive eroticism that sets the tone. This is very much an Erotic Thriller, but in the typical gialli way where the obsession, perversion and sex in public places have an active part in the story’s development and in the portraying of the characters. (Oh my god, did I write that?)
Of course the inspector can not resist the three beautiful sisters for long and soon he finds himself at the vortex of their erotic but deadly games. This is too much to bare for his girlfriend who actually commits suicide after he reveals his secret passion for sado-machosism and screams at her; ”No, I don’t have a lover. I have three! And each one more deranged than the next!” This suicide does not seem to trouble him though, actually to the point where you as viewer don’t even knows, or indeed cares, if it actually happened. For the three strange, contradictory and alluring sisters steal the thunder of basically everything in this film and the viewer, just as the good inspector, is too tangled up with the girls to actually know what the hell is going on. Although it is the inspector and not we, who eventually gets accused for being in on a counterfeit money job with the dead boyfriend; Yuri, who we learn is something of the local godfather with his own strip joint and pimping operation.
Needless to say the plot thickens and soon every one of the sisters has accused each other for killing Yuri, as well as admitting to doing him in themselves. And the poor inspector doesn't know anything really apart from the fact that he has fallen in love with, if not all, at least one of the sisters and plans to elope with her. Of course, without saying too much, things are not quite that simple.
Does it sound confusing? Well it is, but not to the point where you lose interest. Actually the fragmented approach to the story telling works in the film’s favour and for most part only makes it more intriguing and, believe me, makes for excellent re-watching.
The ending comes as a double tailed surprise in true gialli style and holds some of the most bizarre twists of the film. As it were It left me mesmerised and urged to rewind the tape and press play again immediately.
To sum things up; THE WASHING MACHINE might not be as classy as an Argento thriller and it does have it’s fair share of flaws, some possibly devastating if scrutinised. But hey! It’s mysterious, bizarre, sleazy and with a twist! - What more can you ask for, really?
female:1 / male:5
1) Male found dead in washing machine
2) Female commits suicide (not shown)
3) Male chopped up and disembowelled (dream sequence)
4) Male has throat slit
5) Male found dead in washing machine
6) Male electrocuted in bath tub