Palo Cavara’s 1971 film The Black Belly of the Tarantula is known to be one of the best in the giallo genre. Which considering the competition from his peers in the likes of, Argento, Fulci, and the father son combo of the Bava family, you have to wonder where Cavara (Mondo Cane) places in the basilica of these great directors. Well, let’s just say it’s tough to be king. However, The Black Belly hits the giallo button right from the oh-so erotic beginning scenes. That shit will make it difficult to balance your laptop! It just doesn’t stop either. Cavara stocked his whole picture with light erotica, gorgeous women and the some of the most fucked looking men available. And that is why I love 70’s Italian film. There’s a character going by the name Catapult! And it isn’t because he was built like one, but more like he was shot from the mafuka.
Giallo films are known for a number of their specific trademarks making them what they are and The Black Belly hits the mark on each one. Fantastic use of color, retro modernism, thin plots with twists o plenty, and of course the mystery gloved killer taking down their victims in glorious violence. All these pieces fit together to create the atmosphere that is distinctively giallo. It is the final piece of the puzzle though, that is as important as any character in the film. The score of The Black Belly of the Tarantula is shaped by hands down the finest composer in film, Ennio Morricone. This is what brought me to grab this movie in the first place while perusing the shelves at one of my favorite haunts. It’s difficult to find a bad piece of music from Morricone. His range is magnificent given consideration to his breadth of contribution to film. Sometimes, like in this film, that range reaches into the realm of swinging freestyle jazz overlaid by what sounds like two woman deep in a scissoring session! It’s wonderful…
All this and more is in store for our reluctant hero Inspector Tellini. Reluctant meaning he’s not quite sure he is cut out for the job at hand. Yet Tellini is still diligent in his pursuit to uncover the murderer who diabolically employs the use of a poison extracted from a rare breed of wasp to paralyze his victims before he guts them alive with his retractable knife. Worst looking fake ass knife I’ve ever seen! But no matter, on with the killing! Everyone in this movie presents themselves as possibly being the killer at some point. As a giallo this film monumentally succeeds in making you wonder who the killer is until late in the third act. Keeping the killer in plain “sight,” The Black Belly effectively leaves you in the dark until the final reveal.
The Black Belly of the Tarantula turned out to be a solid entry to the giallo scene. While hard to compare to Cavara’s peers, his film fantastically represents the genre and provides some great campy exploitation complimented by Morricone’s wildly sensual soundtrack. You can readily find copies of this film online everywhere being distributed by Blue Underground. One of the premier purveyors of quality lost exploitation and cult film. These folks really do an incredible job on in every aspect with their releases. If you’re not familiar with them do yourself a solid and look them up. While I found this film just by knowing of Morricone’s involvement, The Black Belly of the Tarantula turned out to be a wonderful discovery of another film I watched on my summer vacation.
…And then I hung out in front of the video store.