The Black Belly of the Tarantula – Italy/France, 1971

‘With needles dipped in deadly venom the victims are paralyzed’

The Black Belly of the Tarantula is a 1971 Italian-French giallo horror thriller feature film directed by Paolo Cavara (Plot of Fear; The Wild Eye; Mondo Cane) from a screenplay by Lucile Laks, based on a story by producer Marcello Danon. The movie stars Giancarlo Giannini, Claudine Auger, Barbara Bouchet and Rossella Falk.

Ennio Morricone provided the soundtrack score, which was arranged by Bruno Nicolai.

A mysterious killer is attacking women associated with a blackmail conspiracy. The deranged murderer, wearing surgical gloves, kills his victims by paralysing them with a needle and then slicing open their bellies with a knife (in the same way tarantulas are killed by the black wasp or spider wasp).

The victims are conscious and can feel the pain, but they are unable to move, resist or scream. It is up to the reluctant Inspector Tellini (Giancarlo Giannini) to find out who the killer is, before he or his girlfriend become the murderer’s next target…


“There’s oodles of lovely naked European starlets and a gloved killer lurking in the shadows of the mod apartments and flashy spas where the movie unfolds. There’s a chase scene, some giant spiders, plenty of red herrings and a really bizarre motive for all of it and it’s all wrapped up in some gorgeous cinematography – in short, it’s a textbook case encompassing everything that the genre seems to require.” Ian Jane, DVD Talk

“A solid, engaging thriller, The Black Belly of the Tarantula offers enough of the compulsory nudity and gore to keep audiences entertained, while containing enough in terms of plot and characterisation to do more than simply provide a visceral buzz. One of the better examples of a giallo, it deserves to be seen, especially by those who think that the genre begins and ends with Argento, Bava and Fulci.” Michael Mackenzie, The Digital Fix

“The story itself is decent but certainly not earth shattering, and the reveal isn’t exactly a shocker. By the time the final credits roll, Black Belly of the Tarantula’s outstanding qualities overcome it’s flaws. Well-filmed, with good performances and a decent story. A film well worth watching.” Goregirl’s Dungeon

“The murder sequences are a bit dry in terms of gore, but Cavara eerily flash-cuts during the act, focusing on the anguish of the victims’ faces instead of satiating the audience’s bloodlust. He also slips in some well-done suspense sequences, one involving a dizzying room full of mannequins, and another involving a cool, dynamically shot rooftop chase…” Brett Gallman, Oh, the Horror!

“Aside from Barbara’s regrettably early exit, The Black Belly of the Tarantula is a giallo firing on all cylinders. This was a departure for former mondo filmmaker Paolo Cavara and he certainly rises to the occasion. Marcello Gatti’s scope photography is superb and heightens several striking suspense sequences…” Andrew Pragasm, The Spinning Image

“Excellent Italian horror benefits from some good performances (most notably from handsome Giannini as the sympathetic cop caught up in the unsavory mess). The killer’s motivation may be weaker than Tarantula as a whole, but overall this 1971 giallo finds itself a memorable effort. Well made and stylishly done.” The Terror Trap

Choice dialogue:

Paolo Zani: “You’re no nymphomaniac! Whore is much more like it, more accurate.”

Cast and characters:

  • Giancarlo Giannini … Inspector Tellini
  • Claudine Auger … Laura
  • Barbara Bouchet … Maria Zani
  • Rossella Falk … Franca Valentino
  • Silvano Tranquilli … Paolo Zani
  • Annabella Incontrera … Mirta Ricci
  • Ezio Marano … Masseur
  • Barbara Bach … Jenny
  • Stefania Sandrelli … Anna Tellini
  • Giancarlo Prete … Mario
  • Anna Saia … Maria’s friend
  • Eugene Walter [as Walter Eugene] … Ginetto, the waiter
  • Nino Vingelli … Inspector Di Giacomo
  • Daniele Dublino … Entomologist
  • Giuseppe Fortis … Psychiatrist
  • Guerrino Crivello … Informer
  • Fulvio Mingozzi … Surgeon
  • Giorgio Dolfin … Policeman
  • Carla Mancini … Client at Beauty Parlor

Technical details:

98 minutes  | 1.85:1 | Eastmancolor

Filming locations:

The film was shot on location in Rome, Italy in 1970.


In the USA, MGM released the movie on a double-bill with The Weekend Murders

Blue Underground Entertainment released the film on DVD in 2006.

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