[box cover]

The Black Belly of the Tarantula

After receiving a massage from a blind man and making a lurid phone call where she talks about her nymphomania, Maria (Barbara Bouchet) goes home, only to be stuck with a needle that paralyzes her — but leaves her conscious enough to watch herself get murdered. This sets the tone of Paolo Cavaras's The Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971), a rather modest giallo of some merit. Giancarlo Giannini stars as Inspector Tellini, who finds that Maria had a scandalous photo taken of her and was part of an extortion plan that may have had something to do with her death. The closer Tellini gets, the more it endangers his own life and his relationship with his wife Anna (Stefania Sandrelli). By 1971, filmed pornography was starting to make its legal ways across America, and nudity was no longer a stranger to the big screen, but crossover sensation Deep Throat was still a year off. Such may be why Tarantula feels so old-fashioned for something meant to be lurid. For, what is essentially a stalk-nude-women-around-a-room-and-then-kill-them picture, it's surprisingly modest, with only a few flashes of skin. It's equivalent to reading an early issue of Playboy — the nudity has an aura of quaintness to it, and not just because the women meant to be ogled are currently past their primes. Perhaps that's just the effect of Cavaras's matter-of-fact direction of these sequences (maybe he felt embarrassed about it), but he's nonetheless got an appealing cast (which also includes 007 girls Claudine Auger and Barbara Bach) and a good score by Ennio Morricone. He also has one sequence that's fun when Tellini must run after a man up to the top of a building and then down it. It's a nice bit of business because it must have been hell on the actors to shoot, making the constant running a feat unto itself. And it should be noted that, when the killer is revealed, the fact that a number of the women victims look alike plays into the character's pathology, which — if nothing else — shows the filmmakers were actually thinking about the plot beforehand. Blue Underground presents The Black Belly of the Tarantula in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with English and Italian monaural audio (DD 1.0) and optional English subtitles. Extras include an interview with producer Marcello Danons son Lorenzo (15 min.), who talks about his father's career and making the film. Also included is the theatrical trailer, and a TV spot. Keep-case.

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