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Black Belly of the Tarantula

A movie directed by Paolo Cavara

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Stylish, amusing, entertaining, but forgettable.

  • Sep 10, 2011
**1/2 out of ****

"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.

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About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


This fine entry in the giallo canon was directed by Paolo Cavara (THE WILD EYE), and features a soundtrack by Ennio Morricone, as well as appearances by genre regulars Barbara Bouchet and Barbara Bach. Inspector Tellini (Giancarlo Giannini) is a laconic policeman in Rome who gets put on the case of a serial killer with a particularly gruesome method of killing: he injects beautiful women with a paralyzing poison and forces them to watch their own slow deaths.
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Cast: Barbara Bach
Director: Paolo Cavara
Release Date: 1971
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: Ryko Distribution (March 28, 2006)
Runtime: 1hr 38min
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