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02 January, 2010



Year of Release—Film: 1971

Year of Release—DVD: 2006

DVD Label: Blue Underground

One of the greatest benefits of the DVD format over the Videotape is the greatly reduced cost of manufacture and distribution. This has enabled distributors to release films that were unobtainable on VHS simply because the limited demand for them would make the costs prohibitive. Several distributors have arisen whose specialty is dealing with these ‘niche’ movies, and one of the best is Blue Underground. Specializing in Eurohorrors and Grindhouse treasures, this company has been responsible for the release of many of my favorite films to DVD, including the spectacular BLIND DEAD Box Set from 2005.

In 2006, Blue Underground released one of the most critically acclaimed Italian mysteries known as Gialli to DVD—Paolo Cavara’s LA TARANTOLA DAL VENTRE NERO ~aka~ THE BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA. Starring Giancarlo Giannini, Claudine Auger, and Catherine Bach, this 1971 murder mystery has all the classic elements of a Giallo… stylish art direction; a masked, mysterious killer; inventive death scenes; a net full of red herrings; a suspenseful climax; and beautiful women in various states of undress. LA TARANTOLA… rises above the average of this sub-genre in two important respects: The performances, especially of Giannini as the troubled Detective in charge of the case, and Stefania Sandrelli, as his lovely wife, are superb, far better than the norm for this type of production; and the incredible bevy of beauties present, including no fewer than three Bond Girls.

The plot for this film is good, nothing extremely original, but well thought-out and constructed. Assigned the investigation of the murder of a wealthy man’s estranged wife, Giannini, a rookie Homicide Detective, is drawn into an expanding web of intrigue that reaches even into his marriage. Other murders soon follow the first, as the police realize they’re dealing with a serial killer—one who has begun targeting them.

The Unimonster has long been a fan of the Giallo as a film genre, and LA TARANTOLA… is certainly no exception to the rule. It’s a well plotted, well made murder mystery, in the best tradition of the Italian cinema. There are some who would complain that such films are convoluted and hard to follow; those who are fans of the genre say rather that that’s part of the appeal of a mystery. The Gialli are similar in form and substance to the film noir of the ‘40’s, or Hitchcock’s stylish thrillers. The best of them, and LA TARANTOLA… must be considered in that company, are every bit as satisfying a mystery as THE MALTESE FALCON, and as effective a thriller as REAR WINDOW.

One caveat to the reader, though. Both the original, Italian release and the edited American release are included on the Blue Underground disc; avoid the American edit. I’ve always been a firm believer in seeing a movie in it’s original state—how it was first seen in theaters. Yes, that means dealing with subtitles in this case—get over it. I want to hear the actual performers act… not some stand-in reading a translated script. Also, the edited version is some nine minutes shorter than the original. Granted, you can pare a minute or two from almost any film… but nine minutes? Almost a tenth of the film, gone? Why not just enjoy the full-length feature the way it was intended to be seen… and heard? My recommendation is to do just that… I say it’s a buy, but whether you buy or rent, you should see LA TARANTOLA… You might find you’re a fan of Gialli as well.

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