Black Belly of the Tarantula

The Black Belly of the Tarantula is a 1971 Italian giallo film directed by Paolo Cavara. It is one of many Italian giallo films to be inspired by Dario Argento's successful debut thriller The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. The film was shot on location in Rome, Italy, in 1970. It starred Giancarlo Giannini, Barbara Bouchet, and Barbara Bach. Ennio Morricone did the music score for the film. Though fairly obscure for many years the film has recently made a comeback thanks to the rising fan base for the giallo genre. The film has gained much praise from the horror community, one writer at cited it as the best giallo ever made. Blue Underground Entertainment released the film on DVD in 2006.

The Black Belly of the Tarantula
Film poster
Directed byPaolo Cavara
Written byMarcello Danon
Lucile Laks
Produced byMarcello Danon
StarringGiancarlo Giannini
Claudine Auger
Barbara Bouchet
Rossella Falk
CinematographyMarcello Gatti
Edited byMario Morra
Music byEnnio Morricone
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • 12 August 1971 (1971-08-12)
Running time
98 minutes
CountriesItaly, France


Maria is interrupted during a massage by her angry husband, Paolo. He has proof she has been unfaithful to him, though she denies it. That night, someone dressed in black and wearing surgical gloves brutally murders her after injecting her with a chemical that leaves her paralyzed but still conscious. The next day, the inspector assigned to the case, Tellini, questions Paolo. The police find a picture of Maria being caressed by the hand of a man, but because half the picture is missing his identity is unknown. At home that night, Tellini confesses to his artist wife that he doesn't feel cut out for homicide investigations.

Tellini continues to investigate the crime, and trace the needles used in the crime to a local doctor. The doctor protests his innocence, and when Tellini leaves the office he is accosted by Paolo. Paolo too insists he is innocent and plans to conduct his own investigation. The killer strikes again, this time murdering a clothing store owner with no connection to Maria. Tellini visits a scientist acquaintance of the woman, who demonstrates that a species of wasp will use a toxin to paralyze and eviscerate a tarantula in order to lay its eggs in the corpse. Tellini has the scientist arrested on drug possession charges.

Laura, who owns the spa that Maria patronized the day of her death, phones Mario, who was Maria's lover in the picture. He and Laura take photos of lovers in order to blackmail them, and she tells him to deliver the last batch of photos of Maria's indiscretions to a woman named Franca. When Mario goes to deliver the package, Tellini and Paolo (who is now working with Tellini) chase him. Paolo falls to his death after a brief struggle with Mario, but Mario is then run down by a car in the street below. Shortly after being interviewed by Tellini Franca is murdered by the killer. But the police rule that Mario was the killer of all three women. When a tape of Tellini and his wife making love is made public, Tellini again determines to leave the force. But when he is nearly killed in a staged automobile accident, he realizes he needs to solve at least this one last crime.

Jenny, one of Laura's spa employees, resigns in protest of the blackmail ring. Laura obliquely threatens her life, but their conversation is interrupted by the spa's blind masseur. Jenny spends the night at a friend's house, but is followed there by the killer who murders her then leaves her body in a trash bag to be found the next morning. Tellini interviews some of Jenny’s coworkers, including the aloof Laura, a nurse who wears gloves identical to the killer's and the blind masseur, who takes off his darkened glasses to reveal colorless, unseeing eyes.

That night, Laura telephones Tellini to inform him that she has determined the killer's identity. But when he goes to the spa, he finds her dead with a colorless contact lens next to her body. Realizing the masseur had been faking his blindness and was indeed the killer, Tellini races home to find the killer attacking Anna. The men struggle, and Tellini subdues him and saves Anna. The next day, a psychiatrist tells Tellini that the masseur had begun faking his slightlessness after killing his unfaithful, sexually voracious wife; he then continued to kill in order to satisfy his inner demons. Satisfied at solving the case but still disillusioned with police work, Tellini wanders the crowded streets of Rome.




  • P. Bondanella, History of italian cinema, 2009
  • Luther-Smith,Adrian (1999). Blood and Black Lace: The Definitive Guide to Italian Sex and Horror Movies. Stray Cat Publishing Ltd. p. 9

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