La Tarantola dal Ventre Nero (Black Belly of the Tarantula) Reviews
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.
Worth a look.
In 1971, the underlying premise of this film (in English, The Black Belly of the Tarantula) must have seemed shocking in both its formsâ"the first, that a killer uses a paralytic poison to immobilize his victims while he kills them, and the second, that the story is narrated by someone under the influence of that poison, who is believed to be dead, lying on a slab in the morgue, waiting for an autopsy to be performed on him. Between then and now, however, we've learned that Marcello Danon's flight of fancy is far more science than fiction, thanks in no small part to the work of ethnobotanist Wade Davis (whose Masters thesis, The Serpent and the Rainbow was, shall we say, a bit sensationalized when turned into a wonderful Wes Craven flick). Since Davis' work went the eighties version of viral, the tetrodotoxin methodology in movies has become something of a staple, and the fear of being on the operating table while fully conscious has replaced the older trope of being buried alive in the pubilc consciousness. In other words, what may have seemed shocking in 1971 is now rather same-old-same-old. I rush to add, however, that none of this makes this particular movie any less worth watching; it's just that, with our new cultural eyes, none of what happens as regards either of those two plot mechanisms is likely to surprise you.
I've already given you all you need to know of plot above; a serial killer is going around doing his business with a twist: he uses acupuncture needles (again, this is something that must have seemed very exotic in 1971 that's second-nature now) to inject his victims with immobilizing wasp venom before killing them. Hapless police inspector Tellini (Swept Away's Giancarlo Giannini in an early role) is on the case, and somehow entirely unaffected by the fact that he's surrounded by some of the world's great sex symbols (Stefania Sandrelli, Claudine Auger, Barbara Bach, Barbara Bouchet...). The case starts out looking like any other murder case, though with an admittedly kinky twist, but the closer he gets to figuring out what's going on, the weirder. Nothing, of course, is quite as it seems...
Cavara, probably still best known for directing the original Mondo Cane, lined up a wealth of talent for this one, and much of the reason it's worth watching comes from there. Like many gialli, The Black Belly of the Tarantula has a bog-standard plot, but the visuals are arresting, as they often are in gialli, and the acting here is a cut above the usual; not the best giallo you'll ever see, but far from the worst. ***
"Black Belly of the Tarantula" is a competent, well-made giallo thriller that, for all its visual and stylistic flare, is just looking for the right story elements and characters to make it feel complete. I won't deny that I found some things to enjoy about it, and it does have a handful of really good scenes, but the thing just isn't as interesting as I hoped it would be. Consistently entertaining and hardly ever boring, unless you count those moments where you realize that the film just isn't anything all that special and it doesn't intend to change that; sure. However, entertaining and interesting are two fairly different things.
I imagine the story could have made for something truly great, but its quality it taken down a few pegs by its restrictions and lack of relevance. The film is about a cop who investigates the brutal murders of several beautiful women; and as with most movies like this one, the first suspect is the often troubled husband of each fair lady. The cop basically spends the entire film trying to find out who this killer is, and why the person is killing in the first place, so no surprises to be had there; that is, unless, this film can do something truly different.
However, in the end of it all, the film only does one thing different and/or intriguing with its story. It has one good idea going for it; the inclusion of a deadly acupuncture needle which is inserted into the victims, allowing the killer to proceed ripping open their stomachs, while they sit there watching. The film makes it clear that this is a method used by a certain type of wasp to kill tarantulas in the same way, which is interesting, if only for a little bit. That part had me thinking, and it also had me (nearly) believing that this was a good movie, when the truth was this: I was on the edge for the entire ride when it came to what I thought of it.
If you're in to these "Giallo" Italian horror-thrillers, then you'll get what you came for. I was impressed by some of the gory, well-staged murder sequences, which are seldom exciting, but sometimes they aren't meant to be. We are observers of these scenes and we are intrigued by the reactions that they are intended to elicit; although this time, there's not quite as much to admire. I had respect for the film; it isn't terribly good, but at the same time, it isn't terribly bad. I'm thankful that it doesn't suck as much as the majority of Lucio Fulci's sad excuses for "Giallo" films, but all-in-all, I just wish there was something more to it.
I didn't care about the characters. They were so simplistically drawn out, and thin as paper. The story is pretty much ruined therefore, and so is a good amount of the experience. Still, I put "Black Belly of the Tarantula" on the better side of decency, just a bit above mediocrity, because it deserves some praise. Like I said, it has enough little moments to be, well, entertaining. I just don't want to call it compelling, or a classic, or even something as ridiculously over-the-top as "the best Giallo ever made", which is the quote taken from a review for the film, and used on the box art. I can't say I blame the people; when you have a film like this; you want the highest praise on display, even if it doesn't necessarily deserve to be held in high regard. Still, obscurity is something that the film shouldn't have met; I think it deserves an audience, and it will get one. It's problematic and muddled, but as long as you don't compare it to classics such as "Deep Red" or "Blood and Black Lace", I think you will be fine.
Et ce pied d'enfer je l'ai pris avec "Black Belly of The Tarantula", et ses meurtres si particuliers proche de la façon de tuer d'une araignée et autre détail troublant les victimes sont liées de par un salon de beauté et les suspects sont nombreux ! Bon, comme j'aime me creuser la tête pour pas un rond, j'ai quand même deviné à l'avance l'identité de l'assassin (pas depuis le début, j'avoue lol).
Mais c'est un giallo dans la plus pur tradition du genre avec un suspect qui fait tout pour ce disculper (Giancarlo Giannini super) un érotisme prononcé et assez esthétique, à l'image d'un film qui n'est pas filmé n'importe comment, l'ensemble a de la classe ! Et je ne parle pas du casting féminin qui réuni la crême du genre (il ne manquait plus que Fenech) avec Claudine Auger, Barbara Bach et bien sûr Barbara Bouchet. Du tout bon !
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!
Not a bad movie, but not exceptional either.