La tarantola dal ventre nero – Black Belly of the Tarantula – The Dungeon Review!

black belly of the tarantula“With needles dipped in deadly venom the victims are paralyzed, so they must lie awake and watch themselves die!”

I must admit, although I am a big fan of Italian horror I am hooked on certain directors, and sometimes titles by directors I am unfamiliar with slip pass me. Such is the case with the 1971 Giallo ‘Black Belly of The Tarantula’.

In the center of the action is a women’s health club. One of its regular patrons is the subject of blackmail and is killed in her home in the most despicable manner. The cycle continues and the bodies begin piling up. Like any good Giallo, there are a variety of suspects. With each death the plot thickens. The manner with which the killer dispatches his victims is one of the most unique and cruel that I have come upon. As the tagline states, “With needles dipped in deadly venom the victims are paralyzed, so they must lie awake and watch themselves die!” Clothing is ripped away so the killer can stick an acupuncture needle into the back of the neck. Then while they are paralyzed they are gutted like a fish. Nasty! The killer’s modus operandi is explained in a beautifully illustrated sequence where a black wasp kills a tarantula. Who says horror films can’t be educational? The deaths are violent amid a sleazy world of blackmail, drugs and extramarital affairs. It’s all part of the fun. Although the deaths are gruesome in nature, visually they aren’t terribly gratuitous. By no means does this ruin the mood or effectiveness. These scenes are very well orchestrated.

still from black belly of the tarantula

In the opening scene Maria Zani is laying naked, getting a massage from a blind man. The phone rings, so she just nonchalantly strolls over to the phone. Most of us would probably grab a towel or robe. But the woman has such an air of confidence about her it seemed totally natural. Barbara Bouchet, who was also in Lucio Fulci’s ‘Don’t Torture a Duckling’, is great as Maria. Claudine Auger, who would go on to make Mario Bava’s ‘Twitch of the Death Nerve (aka Bay of Blood)’ also does a formidable job. And rounding out the “women who have been in other Italian Horror I’ve reviewed” is Rossella Falk who would go on to make ‘Seven Blood-Stained Orchids’ the following year. Also featured is a very young Barbara Bach. A pretty stand up cast of female actresses.

Eye candy does not only come in the form of attractive woman. The cinematography is outstanding. Every scene is presented with a stylish flair that rivals the best Giallo titles out there. There are multiple locations and sets in the film that all work beautifully. I was particularly fond of the scene in the Fur store. Mannequins just freak me out. Helping the mood along is Ennio Morricone’s excellent breathy score. During the same year Ennio also did the soundtracks for Lucio Fulci’s ‘A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin’ and Dario Argento’s ‘Cat o’ Nine Tails’ and ‘Four Flies on Grey Velvet’.

still from black belly of the tarantula3

In many Italian horror films, police are supporting characters that tend to be presented as rather daft. In ‘Black Belly of The Tarantula’ Inspector Tellini is the central character who is slightly less inept than most. He definitely makes some dumb decisions. Like so many films, Italian or otherwise, there is a pivotal scene where he should have called for backup. In this same scene there is also a struggle I found a bit questionable. Tellini is ready to hand in his resignation, as he intimates to his wife, but still manages to collect clues and connect some dots along the way. Despite the character issues I thought Giancarlo Giannini did a pretty good job playing Tellini.

The story itself is decent but certainly not earth shattering,and the reveal isn’t exactly a shocker. By the time the final credits roll, Black Belly of The Tarantula’s outstanding qualities overcome it’s flaws. Well-filmed, with good performances and a decent story. A film well worth watching. Highly recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Paolo Cavara

Starring: Giancarlo Giannini, Claudine Auger, Barbara Bouchet, Rossella Falk, Silvano Tranquilli, Annabella Incontrera, Ezio Marano, Barbara Bach, Stefania Sandrelli

3 Responses to “La tarantola dal ventre nero – Black Belly of the Tarantula – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. bizarre_eye Says:

    I love Black Belly. It’s one of my favourite gialli, yet most gialli lovers I know can’t stand it! It’s nice to see it getting some well deserved praise! On a side note have you seen another of director Paolo Cavara’s brilliant gialli: E tanta paura (Plot Of Fear)?

    • I can’t imagine why people wouldn’t enjoy this. It has all the elements that make Italian horror great. I have a passion for 70’s cinema in general and have always thought, and always will, that it is horrors greatest decade. I have not seen any other Cavara films but will definitely check out Plot of Fear.

  2. […] “The story itself is decent but certainly not earth shattering, and the reveal isn’t exactly a shocker. By the time the final credits roll, Black Belly of the Tarantula’s outstanding qualities overcome it’s flaws. Well-filmed, with good performances and a decent story. A film well worth watching.” Goregirl’s Dungeon […]

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