Monday, October 18, 2010

Belly Up

The Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971, directed by Paolo Cavara) is one of those middling giallo thrillers that Eye-talian filmmakers churned out without number during the early 1970s. It's pretty anonymous but for its very attractive cast. It provides an early role for a young Giancarlo Giannini as a police inspector and assembles an entire cadre of attractive actresses as foils, including Claudine Auger, Barbara Bouchet, Barbara Bach, and Stefania Sandrelli. This movie operates on a principle discovered in Hollywood by Howard Hawks: whenever there isn't anything interesting going on in the movie, throw beautiful women at the camera (see, for example, The Big Sleep or To Have and Have Not).

The story here finds our hero, Inspector Tellini (Giannini), investigating a series of murders in which the killer uses a poisoned acupuncture needle to paralyze his victims so that they're alive and conscious as he murders them. This is equated with the tarantula hawk wasp, which does something similar to tarantulas before laying its eggs--the tarantula is alive as the wasp larvae devour it. Nasty creature. Meanwhile, the killer seems to have become aware of Tellini and actively subverts his investigation by filming him with his wife and leaving the film at a crime scene as evidence. Meanwhile a mysterious woman hangs around the investigation, apparently involved with a blackmail ring out of a snooty, upscale spa. These two threads collide at the end, of course.

The major failing of this movie is that none of the characters is intelligent except when the plot demands it. That Tellini doesn't connect the victims to the spa right off is hard to swallow. That he doesn't actually ask the character who turns out to be the murderer any questions when given the chance is even more vexing. For the most part, the investigation scenes are filler. The filmmakers are mainly interested in the murder sequences, which are usually filmed as sexual violations as an excuse to show off the film's cast of willing actresses. Yay, voyeurism.

For the most part, it's a pretty lame movie, without even the weird politics that sometimes infests the giallo (Italian audiences, it seems, never tired of watching the bourgeoisie get massacred). But the scenery is nice.

Current Challenge tally:

Total Viewings: 16

First Time Viewings: 16

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