Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 2nd, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, August 12th, 1971
Director: Paolo Cavara
Writers: Marcello Danon, Lucile Laks
Cast: Giancarlo Giannini, Claudine Auger, Barbara Bouchet, Rossella Falk, Barbara Bach
DVD released: August, 2005
Approximate running time: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: RHV
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: $23.95
“With needles dipped in deadly venom the victims are paralyzed – so they must lie awake and watch themselves die!”
Maria (Barbara Bouchet) arrives home one day to find her jealous husband holding photo’s of her and another man having an affair. After hitting her a few times he leaves the apartment in a rage. Later that evening Maria is murder and the police soon suspect her hot tempered husband. Inspector Tellini (Giancarlo Giannini) is assigned to the case and every time he finds a lead they end up dying. Can Inspector Tellini uncover the killers’ identity before they destroy all the evidence and disappear forever?
Paolo Cavara started his career as a director co-directing the highly controversial documentaries Mondo cane and Women of the World. Even though he would direct a wide variety of genres he would only make two giallo’s most notably Black Belly of the Tarantula. By the early 1970’s the thriller genre had taken off after the success of Dario Argento’s The Bird With the Crystal Plumage and what soon followed was an onslaught on movies that used his black gloved killer as the blueprint and virtually all of the featured an animal in their title. Black Belly of the Tarantula as bears some strong similarities to Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace which is consider by many to be the film that started it all.
Cavara’s direction in Black Belly of the Tarantula is nothing short of amazing as he fills every inch of the screen with suggestive compositions that give deeper meaning to what is going on and his use of lighting and choice of colors is superb. Of course for any giallo to work you still a solid cast in which you can mold and manipulate to their fullest potential. Black Belly of the Tarantula is a virtual whose who of Euro-cult performers three of them Claudine Auger, Barbara Bouchet and Barbara Bach are former bond girls. The one actor that holds this who picture together would be Giancarlo Giannini who plays Inspector Tellini. In many giallo’s the investigations are conducted by amateur sleuths and not the police. Black Belly of the Tarantula is one of the more rare exceptions as the main character is that of Inspector Tellini and most of the film is shown from his point of view.
The opening credits are stylishly designed as the credits play while a naked Barbara Bouchet gets a massage in the background. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the film and is sure to get your blood flowing. The murder weapon used in this film is one of the most original and at the same time painful to watch. The killer sticks a needle that is a few winches long into the base of his victims necks and once they are paralyzed the killer cuts up their bodies. This film has its fare share of nudity and bloodshed making it one of the more graphic giallo’s of its time. One minor annoyance is that when ever a newspaper appears there is no translation since no English subtitles have been provided. Quite possibly the films strongest asset is Ennio Morricone’s lush seductive score that perfectly compliments and attaches itself to this films visuals. Black Belly of the Tarantula might not trend any new ground, still it takes all the key elements that have enchanted fans of this genre and uses them to their fullest.
RHV presents Black Belly of the Tarantula in an anamorphic aspect ratio that preserves the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This film has some vivid color cues and the colors for this transfers are eye catching through out. The black levels stay strong and there is nor break up or pixilation of the image. Flesh tones look accurate and the amount of detail in every scene is exceptional as background and foreground details look equally sharp. There are no problems with compressions or artifacts and there is some mild edge enhancement, still nothing that ever becomes to distracting. Overall this is a very good transfer that rivals most the giallo titles being released in region 1 quality.
This release comes with two audio options the films original Italian language track and an English dubbed audio track. Both audio mixes are presented in a Dolby Digital mono. For this review I only listened to the English audio track since the Italian audio track doesn’t come with any English subtitles. The dialog is clean, clear and easy to follow and understand. Outside of a few instances in which the music overpowers the rest of the mix the music and effects sound evenly balanced. There are no problems with hiss, distortion or any other sound defects. The audio is more then adequate just don’t expect to be wowed.
Extras for this release include the films original English language trailer and a gallery of stills that has music from the film playing in the background. Other extras include a sixteen page collectable booklet that contains stills from the film and several pieces written about the film and its participants unfortunately all the text is only in Italian. Rounding out the extras is fifteen minutes interview one of the films co-screenwriters sons Lorenzo Danon. Just like virtually all of the extras include for this release this interview is in Italian and does not come with English subtitles. RHV have put together a solid release albeit most of the extras are geared towards this releases market Italy, still have given Black Belly of the Tarantula its best home video audio/video presentation to date. The full length version of Black Belly of the Tarantula is reportedly ninety eight minutes in length and RHV’s release runs about ninety four minutes in length with the difference in time due too PAL’s 25 times per second versus NTSC’s 30 times per second. Also there are no noticeable jump cuts in the footage or music cues it would appear that this release of Black Belly of the Tarantula is completely uncut. Black Belly of the Tarantula is one of the best examples the giallo genre has to offer and now fans of the film are finally able to see it in all of its glory, highly recommended.