Black Belly of the Tarantula

Black Belly of the Tarantula

"As long as I'm free I can look for the murderer my own way."

Inspector Tellini (Giancarlo Giannini) is on the trail of a sadistic killer who first paralyzes his victims with an acupuncture needle before taking his time, slicing them open with a knife. The investigation leads Tellini to a cocaine smuggling ring and a blackmail operation. But how are the victims involved and what connects the crimes? Could the first victim's uncooperative husband (Silvano Tranquilli) be the killer? And who is the mysterious woman (Claudine Auger)  who shows up at every crime scene? As Tellini gets closer to uncovering the mystery, he and his wife, Anna (Stefania Sandrelli) find themselves in a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Will this case destroy the Inspector before he can bring the killer to justice?

Black Belly of the Tarantula is a really solid giallo with some interesting turns and red herrings. The sexy parts don't seem forced or gratuitous, but rather, are integrated nicely into the story – the investigation takes Tellini to a women's day spa, so there's a valid excuse for nudity.  There's a lot of great action, thanks to a rooftop chase scene and an attempted murder involving a staged car accident. The first kill of the movie is one of the most stylish giallo murder scenes ever. We see the black-coated killer struggle with his victim in silhouette, slowly drive the needle into her neck, and then cut into her belly with lots of thick blood. It's just a really well-crafted piece of filmmaking. Director Paolo Carara is best known for his exploitative shock documentaries, like Mondo Cane and, while that experience is evident in the gory first murder, Carara shows tasteful restraint throughout Black Belly of the Tarantula. Still, with a plot that hinges on such great elements as cocaine smuggling and blackmail, the ending is a giant letdown. It turns out that the killer's motivation (while it does make "giallo sense") was never foreshadowed, so the viewer has no chance of guessing the identity of the killer ahead of time.
  • The day spa and the Zani home both have the same weird-looking modern telephone. I suspect that props were re-purposed.
  • The killer stalks his second victim through a shop filled with mannequins – an homage, no doubt, to Blood and Black Lace.
  • This is one of those "giallo all-star" productions, featuring a lot of familiar actors: Claudine Auger (Bay of Blood), Barbara Bouchet (Don't Torture a Duckling), Rosella Falk (Seven Blood Stained Orchids), Silviano Tranquilli (The Bloodstained Butterfly), Annabella Incontrera (The Case of the Bloody Iris), Barbara Bach (Short Night of the Glass Dolls), and Eugene Walter (The Pajama Girl Case).
  • There are also a lot of James Bond connections in this film. Bouchet, Bach, and Auger were all Bond girls and Giancarlo Giannini would appear in 2006's Casino Royale.

What the Hell am I Watching?

Photos and film are confiscated from the blackmailer's home and the police detectives sit down in a theater to watch the footage – including a surveilance film of Tellini and his wife enjoying some grownup time.

The title sort of makes sense, but only as a weak metaphor. At one point in the movie, a forensic scientist makes an analogy between the killer's methods and that of a wasp, paralyzing its arachnid victim before killing it.

Fashion Moment:

The wardrobe in The Black Belly of the Tarantula is pretty bland, everyday stuff.  But Laura's sea foam green coat and navy hat with matching gloves stands out in a sea of neutrals, as Tellini chases her down the street.