Black Belly of the Tarantula
by Barry Meyer
A different twist on the old Italian giallo.
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In the grand bloody Italian giallo tradition, a killer stalks the women of an exclusive health club. With latex-gloved hands, the anonymous brute stalks the beautiful women and then, naturally, slaughters them. Italian super stud Giancarlo Giannini plays the baffled inspector who tries to solve the murders while endeavoring to resolve the nagging issues in his own personal life. During the investigation, the inspector is shocked to discover that not only is the lunatic slicing his female victims into dog meat, but the killer first sadistically paralyzes them with a needle dipped in venom — much as a wasp does to his tarantula enemy, the killer literally disembowels his victims alive. Giancarlo must unravel the killer’s identity before a sinister web is cast too close to home… or before his hunky hairdo is all mussed up.
Black Belly Of The Tarantula falls under the Italian giallo category, but it doesn’t exactly play by the sub-genre’s rules. Like the films of Dario Argento, Aldo Lado and Mario Bava, Belly director Paolo Cavara keeps the action bloody and the killer’s identity invisible. But it’s with the treatment of Inspector Tellini (Giannini) that Cavara breaks the giallo mold. Giallo’s are usually enshrouded with a fog of mystery, not just with the killer’s true identity, but also surrounding the lives of those affected by the murders. In Belly, Inspector Tellini has an entire subplot being played out on its own, outside of the investigation of the murders in which he contemplates love and monogamy. This infusion of a more human element was quite popular at the time (70s) in American television movies, such as The Deadly Game and The Girl in the Empty Grave, which starred Andy Griffith. Griffith’s character Sheriff Abel Marsh’s personal life was just as much a part of the plot as the mysterious murders he was investigating. As was the gimmick of these TV flicks, the paths of the investigator and the killer would inevitably cross with deadly peril.
This departure from giallo standards makes Black Belly surprisingly more enjoyable than I expected. It’s a cliché move to have the gal pal of the movie’s lead to be in danger, but Cavara and Giannini make this work. Fans of Italian horror will be delighted to find sexy duo-Barbara action, with Bond girl Barbara Bach and Italian scream queen beauty Barbara Bouchet getting their garments slashed off by the crazed wasp-like killer.
Barry Meyer is a writer living in New Jersey.
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