Black Belly Of The Tarantula (1971)

AUGUST 9, 2011


Today for Badass Digest I wrote about the new Gialli that appeared on Netflix’s streaming service, and how they are pretty much the only ones they’ve ever offered in the service’s nearly three year existence. Basically it’s just the 4 film "Giallo Collection" that offered the great Bloodstained Shadow and the barely-qualifying entry Short Night of Glass Dolls, but they also added Black Belly Of The Tarantula (Italian: La Tarantola Dal Ventre Nero), a very early effort that came highly recommended by a couple pals.

But of the ones I’ve seen, it’s not really top-tier to me. It’s a bit too straight forward and dry for my tastes; long stretches of the film consist of nothing but lead hero Giancarlo Giannini talking to potential not-really-suspects or other cops, and the murder scenes, while fine, are a bit repetitious. The best one occurs fairly early on, as the murderer (who wears beige gloves for some reason) stalks a victim who has run into a mannequin-filled room, which adds to the creepiness. The others, however, are pretty generic both in locale (usually their apartment) and execution. The gimmick of the killer is that he paralyzes his victims so that they are still alive when he disembowels them (much like a wasp does to its prey), which is appropriately evil and perverse, but the flipside is that it means all the killings are pretty much the same. That he only goes after women who are all in the same age group (and often look alike – gorgeous redheads seem to be his favorite target) just adds to the repetition.

Plus it’s remarkably devoid of red herrings, making the mystery less fun than usual. Lucile Laks’ screenplay has an unfortunate tendency to cross out suspects almost as soon as they are introduced. Like, around the halfway point we meet an entomologist – easy suspect, right? Given the insect-based motive, you’d think he was someone worth keeping an eye on, but instead, Giannini discovers that the guy is smuggling drugs by putting them inside the cases with dangerous insects (as customs would be afraid to look too closely – kind of genius, really), and thus he is instantly arrested, a few minutes after his introduction. There’s also the jealous husband of the first victim (who has the movie’s best line “You’re no nymphomaniac... WHORE is more like it!”), but not only is his involvement too specific to one victim to be a viable suspect (why would he kill the others?) but he too is taken out of the running before long.

At least he goes out in style. In the film’s best non-serial killer sequence, the husband chases a would-be blackmailer (there’s a subplot about some photos of his wife) around the city, up and down alleys, over railings, even across rooftops (I think the LA Noire programmers saw this one), and ends with the husband falling off a roof, smashing his head into a window as he falls, and splatting below. Then, Giannini starts chasing the blackmailer himself, only to get hit by a car (safely), after which the suspect also gets hit (not so safely – another suspect out of the running). It’s like a 10 minute chase that nearly doubles the movie’s body count – pretty awesome.

Apart from the chase, there are a few inspired or random bits that kept me entertained. I particularly liked the (gay?) guy at the massage parlor who spoke only in condescending remarks to the customers – at one point he chastises a woman for shaving her mustache because they are “in” at the moment. There’s also a funny bit where the police develop a roll of film found in the blackmailer’s darkroom, hoping it would provide a clue, and then all the cops gather in a screening room to watch it only to discover that it’s a voyeuristic video of Giannini making love to his wife. So they’re all giggling and cheering him on while he sits there like an asshole. Heh.

It’s also got a pretty good Ennio Morricone score; not one of his best, but it’s got more personality than the rest of the movie, which just goes through the motions for the most part. And that’s the thing about it - it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just sort of average. Maybe back in the day it was mind blowing, but there are plenty of better gialli out there (and, yes, plenty that aren’t as good). Perfectly worthwhile option for completists or Giannini fans, but of those new ones on Netflix, I think Don’t Torture A Duckling or Bloodstained Shadow are better examples (well, Deep Red is the best, but Netflix’s version is cut, so F that).

What say you?


  1. Tenebrae used to be on there...

  2. Deep Red is cut on Netflix Instant? Do you by chance know if the DVD version is cut...I was hoping to watch it.

  3. There are multiple DVDs, you want the one that runs around 126 minutes (that's 2 hrs, 6 minutes). To be fair some of the scenes that are cut deserve to be, but this Netflix version cuts other, important things as well.

  4. Thank you, that's the DVD I'll look for.


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