Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971)
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In particular, this (like "The Fifth Cord") is a great example of how the giallo creates a particular physical space in which the drama takes place - all ultra-modern and chic, with all sorts of psychosis rotting away under the slick surface.
Highlights include a great chase around and on the roof of a modernist office, Giancarlo Giannini's fine performance as a cop struggling with doubts about his abilities in a case that gets all too personal, a cameo by Walter Eugene from "The House With Laughing Windows", a high quota of gorgeous starlets and one of Morricone's best scores. And another guest-starring appearance by J&B scotch - surely worthy of a few PhD essays in it's own right for it's ubiquity in the genre (did the Italians drink an awful lot of this in the 60S and 70s or were they keen early adopters of product placement?)
Well worth a viewing for the general thriller fan and a must for any self-respecting giallo aficionado.
Giancarlo Giannini's Inspector Tellini is a slightly different breed of cop. The film interestingly delves further (then most Gialli) into the relationship of him and his wife Anna (played by the beautiful Stefania Sandrelli), and the moodiness surrounding his job. He neurotically says "I just don't think I can do this anymore. I want to quit." (echoing my own displays of verbal discontent in the work world, as my girlfriend pointed out) And in the end when Inspector Tellini loses his cool, as the killer gets closer to getting to his wife!
This is a great little Giallo, which unfortunately is a tad hard to find in America. But I nevertheless highly recommend it to those who love weird and twisted little masterpieces that come from a country of machisimo mentality. And the music score is to die for!!!!
A deranged killer is injecting beautiful women with the poison of a rare wasp, paralyzing them and forcing them to witness their own brutal murders. When nymphomaniac Barbara Bouchet and somewhat later her husband have been disemboweled, inspector Tellini (Giancarlo Giannini) is called in to stop the killer's venomous rage. He loves his wife, but is dedicated to his police work above anything else and is away from home a lot, so this leaves his wife a little unhappy at times. Pressure on their marriage is rising, but when the killer targets him and his wife, his blasé attitude towards life won't do the trick anymore.
This is a fine Giallo with great cinematography and style to burn. And I'm very forgiving when a film opens with a buck-naked Barbara Bouchet parading around in the first five minutes. Definitely one the better gialli made, beautifully filmed, gorgeous sets, a sumptuous score by Ennio Morricone and on top of it, three Bond-girls, Barbara Bouchet (CASINO ROYALE), Claudine Auger (THUNDERBALL) and Barbara Bach (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME).
The film boasts some superb and highly stylized cinematography with evocative use of locations by Marcello Gatti, who lensed THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS five years previous and would later work on Polanski's WHAT. The film has a rather unusual setting, with many scenes filmed in Rome around modernist housing blocks. It's a shame so few of Paolo Cavara's other films are available on DVD. Perhaps "Black Belly" is not covering any new ground, but as far as perfection in Giallo mysteries goes, this comes very close.
Giannini looks a bit bored throughout the whole film. Perhaps he is contemplating about his appearance in yet another Italian B-movie. Speaking of Giannini, what's the deal with that little mustache he's cultivating? He looks almost exactly like Alain Delon in LE CERCLE ROUGE, made just a year earlier.
Camera Obscura --- 8/10
After a strong first half hour, the plot loses momentum up to a lame denouement, followed by the usual ridiculous psychobabble.
At least, the pace never flags and the actors are above average.
3 out of 10 see-through killer gloves (for a change)
Paolo meets Inspector Tellini to tell him that he is innocent. Further, he hires the private eyes La Catapulta that finds the last man that had met Maria, the photographer Mario (Giancarlo Prete). Paolo pursues Mario but they both die and Inspector Tellini finds an envelope addressed to Franca Valentino with Mario. Inspector Tellini discovers that he was a blackmailer and meanwhile Franca becomes the third victim of the serial killer. When the masseuse Jenny (Barbara Bach) is found dead wrapped in plastic bag, Inspector Tellini goes to the massage parlor to meet the manager Laura (Claudine Auger) and he believes that an employee may be the serial-killer.
"La Tarantola dal Ventre Nero" is a great "giallo" with the typical structure – a serial-killer that wears gloves and the identity is only discovered in the end; the victims are beautiful semi-naked women; gore deaths; a persistent detective pursues the killer; and wonderful music score.
The story is well developed, with many plot points. The very young Giancarlo Giannini works with very beautiful women, three of them future Bond girls (Claudine Auger and the Barbaras Bouchet and Bach). The great music score of Ennio Morricone completes the work of the director Paolo Cavara. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "O Ventre Negro da Tarântula" ("The Black Belly of the Tarantula")
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
As ever with Giallo, the film isn't particularly easy to follow; as there's so much going on that it's easy to miss one or two key plot elements. This is, however, far better than having too little going on and unlike many Giallo's, at least this one mostly resolves everything by the conclusion. There's a very potent stream of sleaze running throughout the film also; as if the killer's methods weren't enough on their own. The film features plenty of sex, and it will please some to learn that many of the murders are depicted with the female victim in the nude. The murder scenes themselves are well orchestrated, and director Paolo Cavara delights in showing us the gentle way that the paralysis needle slips into the victims' necks before having their stomachs ripped open with a hunting knife. The cinematography is superb, and it's safe to say that Black Belly of the Tarantula is one of the better looking Giallo films out there. The locations bode well with the film's style, and scenes that take place on a rooftop and in a luxury swimming pool provide visual treats. Overall, I don't hesitate to name Black Belly of the Tarantula as one of the best Giallo's that I've seen and it comes highly recommended!
After a good start the film unfortunately slows down. Suspense returns in the last twenty minutes or so, but until then, not much striking is going on. Director Cavara loses too much time with sequences that aren't keeping the story going. The murder scenes are giallo-standard and nasty, if not necessarily gory. The identity of the killer is surprising as ever. Ennio Morricone's score is especially lush and a highlight of the film.
Not a bad movie, but not exceptional either. Only giallo freaks should stick up to this.
Despite being made by people not usually associated with the sub-genre (director Cavara had started out in "Mondo" documentaries!), most of the requisite elements are present - and this, I have to say, is its major weakness: though the killer's modus operandi here is undeniably original and particularly vicious, the settings, (mostly irrelevant) plot complications and the unconvincing explanation at the end are all-too-typical, thus making the whole somewhat predictable (down to the identity of the murderer!), if never less than enjoyable and occasionally exciting (the rooftop chase scene above all). Still, as shot by Marcello Gatti, the film is stylish enough (even if the technique isn't really pushed to the limit as in, say, the films of Argento) and, in any case, it has two major assets in the performance of Giancarlo Giannini (as bewildered a giallo protagonist as one can get though, for once, he is a cop and a fairly intelligent, albeit disillusioned, one at that) and a typically unforgettable, indeed irresistible soundtrack courtesy of the tireless and ever-inspired Ennio Morricone.
One can't have a giallo without the presence of a bevy of beauties - most of whom get to shed their clothes and are soon shown on the receiving end of the killer's paralyzing poison-tipped needle: Barbara Bouchet (appearing, all-too-briefly, as the first victim in one of the most effortlessly erotic openings to any film!), Barbara Bach and Stefania Sandrelli (who, alas, is too often left by the wayside - though she does share a love scene with Giannini - and whose voice, as far as I can tell, was dubbed even in the Italian version!). The notable cast also features Claudine Auger, Silvano Tranquilli, Rossella Falk and Eugene Walter (as a patronizing gay waiter, whose vaguely androgynous features were later utilized to startling effect in another solid giallo, Pupi Avati's THE HOUSE WITH LAUGHING WINDOWS ). Trivia note: I got to see Giannini, Sandrelli and Bouchet at the 2004 Venice Film Festival (the latter on more than one occasion, since she was a guest of honor during the Italian B-movie retrospective!).
Big mistake. "Black Belly of the Tarantula" is one of those films whose synopsis sounds so good...but the film is a mess. It is unbelievably tedious and un-involving with a disjointed plot that makes you wonder if the script wasn't tossed into a blender before being filmed.
Only the leading man (detective) role is defined. The other characters are just part of a dizzying parade of faces you never get to know. Don't ask me what it's about--although I sat through the whole thing, I never understood any of it. I can tell you that between agonizing passages of boy meets girl babble, there is the occasional "throw-away" perfunctory murder.
These murder scenes are described as wildly diabolical and violent in all the reviews--why? They are very brief and consist of one quick injection with an acupuncture needle, followed by one slow cut by a half-knife. So what? There's no suspense and you don't know or care about anyone whose dying.
For me, the only interesting aspect was the inclusion of actor Montgomery Glenn, who appeared in several '60s Italian thrillers with Barbara Steele and here plays a small supporting role. They give him very little to do.
The Big Finale was a huge pile of nothing...quite underwhelming. No spoilers here, but suffice it to say it will leave you saying "huh?" just like the rest of this snore-inducing epic.
Right up there with the equally indifferent yawner, "Case of the Yellow Scorpion."
If you dig naked Bond girls, overripe Ennio Morricone scores, and ridiculous giallo plots with garishly masked killers murdering half-dressed bimbinas in ridiculously elaborate ways, The Black Belly of the Tarantula is for you. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to currently be available in English (I saw an Italian-language version with Spanish subtitles). Still nobody watches these movies for the dialogue, and the plot still makes no sense even if you can more or less understand what's being said on screen. Besides, most gialli fans won't concern themselves too much with the plot or dialogue after the opening scene with a buck naked Barbara Bouchet. The only real complaint I had is that the killer turns out to be the most obvious red herring character in the movie. The point of having an obvious red herring character is that he or she is NOT supposed to actually be the killer. (I can't decide if the movie is especially inept or ham-handedly subversive). But did I mention the opening scene. . ?
I had to keep fast-forwarding through this film - and I saw nothing of interest to me contained within. Nothing that made me wanna stop to watch the film in full, or should I say normal viewing speed.
I'm not saying this is an awful horror film - I'm just saying "it's not my type of horror".
As many others have touched on, I think the flaw in the lagging running time is down to one too many scenes focusing on the detective's domestic life, frankly these scenes are boring. The ending, as with many gialli, also falls somewhat flat - but then this does tend to be a typically style over substance genre.
Bad bits, aside, what is good? There is plenty to love about this film; the brilliant cinematography, the menacing scene with a spider dangled over the detective, the horribly perverse gloves and menacing acupuncture needle of the killer. The music score is also one of Ennio Morricone's finest, and it certainly adds a decidedly chilling air to the film.
Oddly, or not so, I was reminded of Aldo Lado's "Short Night of the Glass Dolls", also from 1971, also featuring Barbara Bach...and also with a strong theme of paralysis and murder. I'd say Lado's film carries the theme off with more aplomb - with it's truly horrific ending, so I'd advised all who've seen this to give that a go.
Well paced, excitingly photographed giallo entry has an interesting enough premise especially in how the killer murders his victims with them well aware of what is happening to them and who it is doing them in. The plot unfolds nicely even if the end result is strictly so-so. Giannini is quite good as the worn-out cop beaten down by the case he's working on. Some lovely ladies in the cast including Barbara Bouchet(as the nympho/first victim), Barbara Bach(as an employee at the spa knee-deep in trouble for her involvement in the black-mailing scam), Stefania Sandrelli(as the detective's beautiful and loyal wife)& Claudine Auger(as the main culprit of the black-mailing scam and boss who runs the health spa).
The film's main problem is the twist regarding the identity isn't too difficult to figure out once certain suspects are eliminated earlier on. The murders, in this case, are quite potent and shocking, especially in how the killer likes to plunge his knife into the torsos of the victims after they are paralyzed. The title refers to the method a wasp commits when it paralyzes and disembowels a tarantula as it relates to the psycho's killing style.
As in all decent giallo films, "The Black Belly of the Tarantula" details a series of murders, all involving attractive women and cringey circumstances. The killer, maniacal and sex obsessed (a shock), practices a particularly cruel method of slaughter — in addition to his butcher knife, he brings along a needle dipped in black wasp venom, causing paralysis for anyone who gets the stuff in their bloodstream. That way, his victims are forced to remain defenseless as they watch (and feel) their insides get ripped open. What a joy! (Vomits.)
Young woman after young woman is stalked and slashed; each murder is edited with such impressive precision (cross-cutting is as well-executed as an excruciating long-shot) that we can't help but want to applaud Paolo Cavara for taking a route authentically suspenseful rather than hackish. But I digress. As the madman sneakily wanders around, eyeing potential victims, the killings themselves are being investigated by Inspector Tellini (Gianni), a young policeman not so sure he can stomach such a high amount of atrocities for much longer.
While "The Black Belly of the Tarantula" keeps us interested with its frenzied mystery- meets-gore approach, nonexistent are the normally intoxicating images presented by most gialli. Aside for clean-cut edits and assertively framed shots (mostly found within the scope of a murder), the film is mostly dry, thrilling only when action is present. In better giallo pictures, such as "Suspiria" and "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" (both directed by Argento), terror is always part of the atmosphere — distinctively nightmarish imagery, after all, is what makes giallo so much finer than your average slasher. "The Black Belly of the Tarantula" oft threatens to be your average slasher — so thank goodness so much attention is put into how the killings are shot. Otherwise, we'd have a bad case of sex-and-death- 101 nobody wants.
But aside from a grouping of inventive offings (the second victim's demise, photographed in a clothing store, cleverly inserts doll-like mannequins to mirror the soon-to-be dead woman's paralyzed helplessness), "The Black Belly of the Tarantula" is nothing more than a subpar giallo. Considering it was made as a cash-in ready to imitate the success of "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" at the time, it's only fitting that it hardly compares to the best of Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Dammit! — there are those names again.
Now, the bad news: The kills themselves are a bit underwhelming despite a fascinating concept (being paralyzed and murdered while conscious but immobile). The plot is so convoluted that after five or six viewings I still don't know why the killer was killing or how he was discovered. Is it because of an excessively convoluted script or because most of the film is so dull one's attention wanders and they miss key clues? You be the judge.
Finally, a bone to pick with the producers: This film is rife with the mentality that women are the most fantastic, magnificent creations in the universe (not true). It's typically Italian BS. So if an unending boy meets girl plot bores you or if you are annoyed by a ceaseless parade of homely broads being presented as goddesses, this film is not for you.
5 stars for the scenes preceding the kills only.
If there was a generic starters pack for giallo newbies I'd definitely include this one. It's a straightforward giallo plot as in it has one masked/gloved/hatted killer, plenty of suspects, a couple of red herrings, a clue at the start of the film, quirky characters, nudity and a bit of gore. It doesn't deviate from the formula but it's a good film anyway, thanks to Ennio Morricone's music, the lovely cinematography, and some good moustache action from Giacarlo Giannini.
It all starts off with Barbara Bouchet (a Bond girl) getting a nude massage from a blind guy and then getting into a fight with her husband because someone's sent him a nude picture of her with a mystery man. Next thing you know some gloved killer has paralysed her with a needle, then cut her open while she can only watch in horror.
Depressed policeman Giancarlo Giannini (whose eccentric wife has sold all the furniture in the house!) is on the case, and thinks the husband did it, but when another victim appears and he uncovers a drug smuggling ring into the bargain, things heat up a bit. It doesn't help that he's the laughing stock of the force when the killer plants some evidence that turns out to be a covertly made film of the policeman and his wife in bed.
There's a neat rooftop chase in this one too, and although it's a case of one killer all the way through, it makes for a good journey all the way through, thanks to appearances by Claudine Auger (a Bond girl) and Barbara Bach (a Bond girl) and Giancarlo Prete (not a Bond girl). There's also the requisite scene in a fashion store amongst mannequins that these films seem to require by law.
The Black Belly of the Tarantula is a textbook giallo that does little to distinguish itself from countless other Italian murder mysteries of the day: there's the mysterious killer in black fedora, raincoat and gloves (albeit rubber gloves); a bevy of beautiful victims, most of whom get nekkid (some before they are killed, some after); stylish '70s architecture and interior design; a convoluted storyline with plot threads that go nowhere; a lush Ennio Morricone score; and a really dumb twist that takes an awful lot of swallowing.
For many this tick-list of genre clichés will be enough, but I couldn't help but feel a tad underwhelmed by the film, which lacks the visual acumen of a director like Argento or Bava, the gory excess of Fulci, and not nearly enough of those weird touches that make certain giallos stand out from the pack. While it's impossible to be too hard on a film that features so many gorgeous Euro-babes in a state of undress (including a buck naked Barbara Bouchet and a topless Barbara Bach), the by-the-numbers nature of proceedings means that I cannot rate this higher than 6/10.
A 1 out of 10. Ms. Bouchet has a fetching derriere. I haven't seen many of this type of film, but it was pointless drivel at best. I hope the actors were paid well. This film is an immediate sleeping pill. I dozed off four times just trying to wade through it. Forget it. The director fell asleep at the wheel. Great music...