Once Before I Die (1966)


(director: John Derek; screenwriters: Vance Skarstedt/story ‘Quit for the Next’ by Anthony March; cinematographer: Arthur Arling; editor: John Davisson; music: Emmanuel Vardi; cast: John Derek (Major Bailey), Ursula Andrews (Alex), Richard Jaeckel (Lt. Custer), Rod Lauren (Captain), Ron Ely (Soldier); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John Derek; WB Pictures; 1966)

A dull World War II drama that stars and is directed by John Derek.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A dull World War II drama that stars and is directed by John Derek (“Bolero”/”Ghosts Can’t Do It”/”Tarzan, The Ape Man”), and it co-stars his beautiful Swedish wife at the time Ursula Andrews (divorced a year after the movie release). It’s based on the 1945 novel ‘Quit for the Next’ by Lt. Anthony March’ and is weakly written by actor-writer Vance Skarstedt.

Major Bailey (John Derek) and his pampered Swiss fiancée, Alex (Ursuls Andrews), are caught in a sneak Japanese air attack while at a polo match at a U. S. Cavalry station in the Philippines in 1941, that occurs just a few hours after the Pearl Harbor attack. The Major sends Alex by car to the airport, to return home to San Francisco, while he follows orders and treks through the jungle with his men to Manila. When Alex can’t get through crowds and her auto stalls, she joins the men on foot. During the jungle trek, Bailey is accidentally killed by an exploding hand grenade.

Richard Jaeckel plays the crazed Lt. Custer, a blood-thirsty soldier who wile on the trek goes on lone raids to gun down the enemy before not returning one day. Meanwhile the American soldiers have to deal with a Japanese tank, and while facing the perilous situation a virgin soldier asks Ursula if he can get laid once before he dies and she obliges. It ends after all the Americans are massacred, but thankfully not Ursula. After she kills a Japanese soldier, Ursula finds a beach to await her fate.

Hey, this guy Derek can’t direct a lick, but he sure has a knack of marrying beauties–think of one of his later four brides, Bo Derek.