Paolo Cavara is best remembered for working alongside Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi in 1962's seminal exploitation shock-doc Mondo Cane. The film went on to spawn an entire genre without Cavara and even drew a number of titles latching on to the Mondo name for sensationalistic purposes, despite unrelated subject matter. It was Cavara's 1971 giallo Black Belly of the Tarantula (La tarantola dal ventre nero) that put him on the map as a serious director. Boasting an interesting cast with as many redheads as red herrings, Marcello Danon's story leads us into a world of blackmail conspiracy, drug trafficking and a black-clad revenge murderer.
The film opens with a languid and sensual Maria (Barbara Bouchet) receiving a nude massage to the tune of a feminine sigh (Edda Dell'Orso) interspersed with sumptuous horn arrangements; simply voluptuous and courtesy of Italian maestro Ennio Morricone. Afterward, we are witness to a fight with Maria's estranged husband (Silvano Tranquilli) who has been sent some illicit photographs of his wife in flagrante delicto. Soon after the quarrel she is attacked by an unidentified assailant who pierces her with a wicked needle and slices her belly open--two phalluses for the life of one. Inspector Tellini, played by the forever brooding Giancarlo Giannini, is called to investigate the murder but the evidence doesn't add up and before he can determine why, another woman is murdered the same way.