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Inspector Tellini investigates serial crimes where victims are paralyzed while having their bellies ripped open with a sharp knife, much in the same way tarantulas are killed by the black wasp. As suspects keep dying, Inspector directs his attention to a spa all the victims had a connection with. Written by
Inspector Tellini (Giancarlo Giannini) must investigate the bizarre murder of two seemingly unconnected women, paralysed by their killer so that they may be horrifically violated while conscious.
It has often been said that Italian cinema is all style and no plot but here is a definite example to the contrary. 'The Black Belly of the Tarantula' is indeed a stylish Italian offering laced with some truly exquisite photography and novel camera trickery but it also consists of a strong plot that surprises and captivates while maintaining a profound aura of trepidation. It is, however, perhaps the most apparent downfall in the film that the plot becomes the central focal point as several aspects to the story are left unexplored, subsequently leaving no acceptable closure of the respective plot aspect. Unfortunately because of this, the prevalent incoherency of Italian cinema is once again revisited and due to the nature of the film it is perhaps more difficult than usual to ignore. With this in mind, one should realise that the central storyline is stark enough to arouse and preserve viewer interest while only the sub-plots weaken the overall presentation of the film.
Despite the mainly superficial criticisms one can direct at the film, 'The Black Belly of the Tarantula' still takes a firm position as one of the finer examples of this particular brand of Italian film-making. Unquestionably, the opening thirty minutes are immensely powerful, offering some of the most intimidating murder sequences ever confined to the cinematic medium. The use of gloomy visuals, point-of-view shots, intentionally disorientating photography, a wonderful musical score blending both prominence and subtlety and a lavish use of dark colours and shadows creates an almost unsurpassed eerie and brutal ambiance to accompany the violent actions depicted on screen and the shrill, short, terrifying shrieks of the killer's victims seek only to underline the artistic craftsmanship of the picture. The brusque transition to silence that immediately follows the first attack of the murderer in each individual case is so overwhelmingly haunting that the following actions are immeasurably disturbing in their tranquillity. Undoubtedly, these sequences are the pinnacle of creativity from Paolo Carvara in this picture; sublime in their splendour and disconcerting in their substance.
The most apt way to summarise 'The Black Belly of the Tarantula' would be to simply describe it as flawed genius. Arguably too plot-heavy and with an unmistakably clichéd outcome, the superlative qualities fortunately shine through and leave the film as impressive, not disappointing. Perhaps those more highly versed in the Italian Giallo will appreciate the effort and artistry slightly more than others, but in any case, 'The Black Belly of the Tarantula' is worthy viewing for all fans of cinema. 7½/10
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