Blue Underground // 1971 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Steve Evans (Retired) // March 28th, 2006
A gory example of the Giallo genre, featuring three Bond girls and enough nudity and perversion for two or three low-budget horror films.
There's a lot of talent at work in this overripe Italian horror flick, which would play well on bad-movie night with a pizza -- heavy on the tomato sauce.
A psycho killer injects gorgeous women with a paralyzing poison to the back of the neck, forcing each to become a mute witness to her own disembowelment. The maniac's modus operandi follows the killing routine of the black wasp, which will stun a tarantula with her sting before laying larvae in the victim's belly. Lovely, eh?
As the beautiful bodies pile up, the determined detective assigned to the case (Giancarlo Gianni, who played a similar role in Hannibal) finds himself drawn into a vile underworld of debauchery and sadism.
Director Paolo Cavaro (who gave the world the original, notorious shockumentary Mondo Cane), delivers a tale of madness and murder con gusto, with supporting work from Claudine Auger (Thunderball), Barbara Bach (The Spy Who Loved Me), and the breathtakingly beautiful Barbara Bouchet (Casino Royale), who commands attention from the opening credits with her nude massage and intriguingly blasé attitude. Rowwwr. Composer Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) turns in one of his more inscrutable scores -- lush horn arrangements punctuated by low, feminine sighs. Bizarre. Highlights include Marcello Gatti's deep-focus cinematography, which is gorgeous.
A nice digital transfer (made from the original camera negative), decent audio, and modest extras round out this DVD from the cult-minded folks at Blue Underground. The Black Belly of the Tarantula delivers 98 minutes of sleazy Eurotrash entertainment.
During frequent lulls in the action, my bad-movie gang enjoyed toggling the remote control between the Italian and English audio tracks. We also had a big time comparing the dubbed dialogue to the optional English subtitles. Much hilarity ensued. Here, truly, is a film that is lost in translation.
Like Psycho, the picture concludes with an epilogue featuring a half-assed psychological explanation for all the mayhem, but by this time most cult fans are already bolting for the exits (or hitting the eject button on their DVD players).
Disc extras include a 15-minute interview with the son of producer Marcello Danon, whose production company oversaw dozens of Gialli (Italian horror films heavy on gore and erotica, but light on plot). Most of these were made in the late 1960s and early '70s. In recounting the history of the company, Lorenzo Danon recalls that his father was also a co-producer of the classic French noir, Rififi, the granddaddy of all caper flicks.
The Black Belly of the Tarantula is not a date movie. You knew that, didn't you?
Modern, by-the-numbers slasher flicks owe a debt to obscure European horror films like this one. Whether that is a good thing remains a matter of individual taste.
I'm cooking breakfast for Barbara Bouchet, so if this house is a-rockin' don't bother knockin'. Everyone else is guilty of melodramatic acting and delightfully dreadful dubbing. Accordingly, I sentence myself to a crash-course in Italian. Ciao.
Review content copyright © 2006 Steve Evans; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Blue Underground
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Italian)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1971
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interview with Lorenzo Danon
* Theatrical Trailer
* TV Spot