La tarantola dal ventre nero [Black Belly Of The Tarantula] (1971) March 16, 2019 12:59
With a couple hundred films in the giallo sub-genre, La tarantola dal ventre nero or Black Belly Of The Tarantula stands among the most well known films, likely due to it's all-star cast of Italian cult film contributors. But as another film whose popularity is often centered around Barbara Bouchet's brief appearance, how does the film stand on it's own after she's quickly killed off in the first fifteen minutes?
The film opens with one of it's most recognizable scenes, Barbara Bouchet as Maria Zani, completely nude, receiving a massage from a blind masseur. She receives a phone call and promptly returns home where's she's smacked around by her estranged husband who received a picture of her half naked with another man. When she refuses to explain herself he storms off, later that night she's brutally murdered!
With a murder investigation now underway the main character, Inspector Tellini's (Giancarlo Giannini), main suspect is Zani's husband, but when another murder occurs soon after in the same manner it's beginning to look a little more complicated than simply a domestic dispute. There may be a serial killer on the loose with a demented pleasure of killing women. The killer's modus operandi is to inject a paralyzing agent into the back of the victim's neck, rendering them unable to move or speak, then to cut them open as they lay there and watch.
Black Belly Of The Tarantula is a very good standard giallo film for someone new to the genre as it's a film that optimizes, to a large part, what the genre morphed into in the 70's and early 80's. The cast is great with quite a few recognizable faces and the writers tried to build a story around Tellini's growing inner struggle with whether or not he should continue to be a detective. This helps to expand the story and prevents it from simply being a standard one sided slasher film.
My biggest complaint about the film is there is very little build up to the grand reveal at the end. In fact the story seems to operate in reverse of a standard pacing format by starting off fast pace and gradually winding down. This doesn't ruin the film but it throws most of the good scenes, and kills off the best actress, in the first fifteen to twenty minutes. The rest of the time the film starts to become quite predictable regarding whose going to die next, who the murderer likely is and who they're coming for in the end. While this doesn't diminish the entertainment value of the film completely, it does stifle much of the suspense.
For Barbara Bouchet fans, much like her role in Nights and Loves of Don Juan, she is used as advertising bait, her scenes are easily the most remembered, and are the scenes often featured in the film's promotional material, yet her screen time is under ten minutes. Claudine Auger though billed as one of the main cast members also makes only very brief and sporadic appearances throughout the film with little dialog, and Barbara Bach is seemingly thrown in as an after thought both at the very beginning and very end. So if you're going into this film thinking any of the major cult actresses are going to see much screen time be prepared for disappointment.
With that said Black Belly Of The Tarantula isn't by any means a horrible film, but aside from the recognizable cast, and the Barbara Bouchet scenes, there isn't anything about the film that really makes it stand out as a top tier giallo, at least it wouldn't be in my Top 10. But in terms of the more easily accessible and recognizable films in the sub-genre it's definitely a film that's worth watching, and a good place to start for those looking to get their feet wet.