In Der Glut Des Mittags 

Tamar Wife of Er
SpainLa salamandra del desierto
Israel (Hebrew title)Tamar Eshet Er

Israel / Italien / BR Deutschland / Spanien 1970, Spielfilm

Producer: Erwin C. Dietrich

Writer: Richard Seagram, Yigal Mossinson as Yigal Mosenzon, Riccardo Freda

Director of Photography: Peter Baumgartner [Panavision: 2.35:1]

Music: Walter Baumgartner

Director: Riccardo Freda/ "Richard Fredda" on the German print, IN DER GLUT DES MITTAGS

Cast: Ettore Manni, Michael Maien, Claudia Wedekind, Jose Jaspe.

Thanks to William Connolly for sending me a copy of this hard to find film.

Claudia Wedekind and Michael Maien in Riccardo Freda's obscure Biblical story, IN DER GLUT DES MITTAGS.

This rarely seen telling of the biblical story of Onan and Tamar is a very obscure, hard to see film. I have only seen a dark letter-boxed print in German, a language I do not speak of understand. A troubled production, made at troubled time in the career of Freda, but more about that later. An Israeli (Tamar Films), Italian (Filmar), Spanish and German co-production funded in large part by mogul Erwin C. Dietrich, a prolific producer with offices in Zurich. It's very different from Freda's earlier "sword and sandal filmography, which includes such distinguished titles as SPARTACO (1952), TEODORA (1954), BEATRICE CENCI (1956), GIANTS OF THESSALY (1960), MACISTE IN HELL (1963) and SAMSON AND THE SEVEN MIRACLES OF THE WORLD (1962), among others.
With some luck I had the kind cooperation of the actor Michael Maien in my inquiry into ONAN UND TAMAR aka IN DER GLUT DES MITTAGS, and I will add his commentary on the making of it, along with a brief interview with the actor on his work with Jess Franco in WICKED WOMEN (1977).
Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting
Actor Michael Maien and Lina Romay, as the villain and victim in Jess Franco's FRAUEN OHNE UNSCHUND (1977)

It begins in GENESIS 39:1: Judah marries the Canaanite woman Shua. She has three sons with him, Er, and then Onan. The third was Shelah and irrelevant to the central story. "Judah chose a wife for this firstborn son Er. Her name was Tamar. Er angered the Lord. So the Lord took away his life. Then Judah said to Onan, "Go sleep with your brother's wide. Do your duty for her as a brother-in-law, and produce a descendant for your brother."* Onan does not fulfill the directions because he realized the result would not belong to him. So when he made love with Tamar he performed coitus interruptus, spilling his semen. In other words, he pulled out before ejaculation, a sin in the eyes of God and man of that era. It was considered a form of masturbation. The word onanism, derives from his name. Onan was, like his brother Er, killed by God. In terms of Biblical definition Onan means pain, iniquity, force. 

The irony in the story may be lost today, or provide unintended humor. It's not as much a moral lesson as a lesson in ancient law. If an authority, or God, told you to do something, you did it. No questions. Birth control was out of the question. Masturbation produces no descendants, so it is a sin. A selfish act in the eyes of God. Genesis, at this point, seems to take place in the Stone Age, an era ending around 2000 BCE. So, for the sake of argument, let's speculate the events take place around 2000 BCE, twenty centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ, 4000 years ago. Of course it actually started about 3 million years before that. Men were hunter-warriors, women were possessions who cooked and produced children. Everyone followed the Law. Misogyny and misanthropy were not yet articulated or pondered upon concepts. 

The biblical epic had long been out of box office fashion by 1970. John Huston's THE BIBLE: IN THE BEGINNING... appeared in 1966, lasted 3 hours and featured an international cast including Richard Harris (Cain), George C. Scott (Abraham), Franco Nero (Abel), Peter O'Toole, Ava Gardner and Stephen Boyd as Nimrod. John Huston played Noah, narrated the film and was the voice of God. Huston proved perfected suited for all three jobs. Lavishly produced by Dino De Laurentiis, the film brought in 34.9 million dollars, the production's budget was 18 million dollars. So, it made money and was a handsome film, shot by the great Giuseppe Rotunno (FELLINI SATYRICON) in Dimension 150, a 70mm format. It won awards and was generally well reviewed.

 Freda's earlier historical adventures were not Biblical films. They were either period swashbucklers (DON CESARE DE BAZAN) or "sword and sandal" epics featuring mythological heroes such as Maciste, or characters such as Spartacus (SPARTACO), Jason (GIANTS OF THESSALY) or Agi Murad (THE WHITE WARRIOR, where Steve "Hercules" Reeves played the title character). Freda's career seemed to be winding down by the end of the 1960s, he made a few more historical dramas, a typical "Spaghetti Western" (LA MORTE NON CONTA I DOLLARI-1967) with Mark Damon, and a stylish giallo-krimi blend, supposedly based on Edgar Wallace, DOUBLE FACE (1969), featuring an unusually subdued lead performance by Klaus Kinski. DOUBLE FACE was a German co-production, which may have hooked up Freda with Erwin C. Dietrich. He was hired to direct this grim Biblical story, which was to be shot on location in Israel. But the Israeli-Jordan war was underway when shooting commenced in the winter of 1970, causing repeated production delays due to nearby military action. Freda, who was in his early 60s at the time, was not in a good mood, seemed detached and possibly physically ill, according to German actor Michael Maien, who played Onan. There was action to be filmed, but hardly the rousing, heroic kind usually found in Freda's historical dramas or peplums. And producer Dietrich had stipulated upfront that there would be nudity and onscreen sex involving the male and female leads. Dietrich would, of course, become the king of German sexploitation films throughout the 1970s and beyond. 

Below: the lavishly detailed, aesthetically harsh 1952 SPARTACO
Spartaco di Riccardo Freda
There is nothing spectacular or aesthetically pleasing about In Der Glut Des Mittags, it's a raw, gritty approach which seems to place in a stone age where everyone lives in large tents, follows patriarchal laws, attend ritual dance performances and gather around fires at night. The Israeli desert offers no visible signs of agriculture or natural shade from the pitiless sun. Sex is forbidden outside of marriage and can only be justified for procreation, hence the sin of Onan is a Capital offence in this environment. A young man pursues a young woman across a desolate ridge in the opening scene, tearing at her clothes as he begins to rape her in plain site. Judah (Ettore Manni) and some Elders suddenly appear, stopping the sexual assault, summarily condemning and executing the young man with a huge sword, a fountain of blood splashes across the focal plane. Before this a stark overture introduces the location, with Peter Baumgartner's camera surveying the bleak, rocky landscape. Baumgartner was an experienced DP who would also shoot the majority of Jess Franco's films which were made for Dietrich between 1975 and 1977. Baumgartner also handled the editing and post production sound on the Franco productions. Compositions like Baumgartner's elegant, carefully blocked and lit set-ups in JACK THE RIPPER (made in just eight very long days!) and DIE LIEBESBRIEFE EINER PORTUGIESISCHEN NONNE (both 1976) are nowhere to be found here. It's almost as if Freda had decided on a stripped down, artless approach to representing the era and story. The music of Walter Baumgartner consists mostly of baleful orchestrations and ethnic interludes, is as hard edged as the visuals.

Michael Maien and Claudia Wedekind bring a sense of sexual desperation to their roles as the tormented lovers. The rest of the cast follows Ettore Manni's stoic, severe patriarch, who never cracks his pained expression. It's a harsh world, devoid of a visible or empathetic God. There's some nudity, sex and groping but everyone pays for any human weakness with death, shunning or exile. The elders discuss burning Tamar before she is banished into the wilderness. She is last seen walking into the sun baked, grueling, unforgiving nothingness of the Negev desert as a female singer wails on the soundtrack. It's a powerful ending for a thoroughly unpleasant film. Maybe it was necessary to maintain a physical and aesthetic distance in depicting an unforgiving existence in a primal environment. The love of God is sometimes hard to make out in the Old Testament. The love and humility which were exemplified by Jesus Christ was to come centuries in the future. Freda's next project would be the equally bleak, violent and misanthropic THE IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE (1971), a nerve jangling Giallo where a killer threw acid into the faces of his female victims before cutting their throats, a world away from the color drenched, delightfully stylish thrillers of Mario Bava (BLOOD AND BLACK LACE) and Dario Argento (DEEP RED). IN DER GLUT DES MITTAGS is not a lost classic, but it's an interesting detour in the long, productive career of an influential Italian genre specialist, a sometimes careless maestro who could produce gold (L'ORRIBLE SEGRETO DEL DR. HICHCOCK-1962) in the right circumstances, a career which had numerous ups, downs and intermissions. 

Interview with Michael Maien.

Q: Where was IN DER GLUT DES MITTAGS filmed?
In Israel. In the Negev Desert and the Dead Sea area. With some studio work in Tel Aviv.

Q: The locations look very harsh and primitive and the film is a very brutal, downbeat kind of feminist allegory which uses the Genesis story for an erotic historical film. Did Freda direct in English?
Yes, he did. 

Q: That's interesting because it's a majority German production and the only available version is in German. Was Erwin Dietrich on location with you?
No, he never visited us.

Q: It must have been a difficult shoot.

Yes, because at this Time there was a war between Israel an Jordan. So we often had to make a break. It was very hot in the desert.. Cold in Tel Aviv. It was Winter. Also, I got the idea that Freda was not so interested in this story and that he didn't feel physically well during the shoot.

Q: You also made a film with Jess Franco later.


Yes, Wicked Women [FRAUEN OHNE UNSCHULD], It was shot in Zurich and Lugano

Q: Was Erwin Dietrich on the set during the shooting of that one?

No, he was not, He never visited the Team, If he didn't direct he wouldn't show up on set. There was a script but we changed itvery often. Jess Franco was very quiet and humorous. But he knew exactly what he wanted us to do, He directed in English. He war very reserved with Instructions. He was more focused on the Camera . Lina Romay spoke English. She was very disciplined, and I appreciated her Strong personality. We had a good relationship, and I was very sad, that she died so early. We had 5 Weeks to shoot., it was shot MOS
Q: Did Franco shoot a lot of coverage?

It depended on, how complicated it was. Mostly 2 Takes. As far, as I can remember.

Q: Getting back to IN DER GLUT DES MITTAGS. How long did it take to shoot?

6 Weeks.
Q: Did Freda talk to you much?

Of course we talked together! About his " Good Years" in the Mussolini Era for example. And after, when he had no offers for filming. I didn't know in which way he was involved in this. There was also an incident during the scene where Onan sets the village on fire. Some of the horses, owned by not so gentle Arabs, were burned alive. They took us hostage during negotiations. Money paid to them saved our lives!
Q: Did you finally see the finished film.
Yes, in Munich.

Thanks to MIchael Maien

(C) Robert Monell, 3-25-2017

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Edited 30 times by bobmonel Mar 25 17 10:33 AM.