During their nine year marriage, actor/director John Derek used his power and influence in Hollywood to boost the career of his then wife Ursula Andress. Quite why he needed to do this is unclear, since by 1965 Ursula had made a number of big-budget mainstream films with everyone from Woody Allen to Elvis Presley. But do it he did, and one of the results was 'Once Before I Die'. Needless to say, Ursula's career was never the same after that.
It's 1941, and on their way to attack Pearl Harbour the Japanese decide to make a test-run on a polo game in the Philippines. Among the survivors are Army Lieutenant Bailey (John Derek) and his fiancé Alex (Ursula Andress). Having lost radio contact with his base in Manila, and realising that war is on the way, Bailey orders his platoon to hit the road and head for the capital. He advises his fiancé to do the same without delay, before the roads clog up with refugees. He warns her not to go home first, but Ursula protests.
Ursula: But what about my puppies! I have to go back for my puppies!AF'07: We can see your "puppies", Ursula, and trust us, they're fine.
Of course Ursula does go back for the puppies...AF'07: Oh, she meant
beagles. Dang it.
... and of course, she then gets caught in the crowds of refugees. When the platoon catches up with her they find her sitting in her convertible Mercedes in the middle of a throng of Filipinos, trying to hide her naughty puppies under her sweater.AF'07: (juvenile sniggering)
Bailey and his platoon have no option but to take her with them.
The long march starts well, but unfortunately while gathering supplies from a local village Bailey manages to set off a hand grenade while salvaging a teddy bear for his beloved out the wreckage of a burnt-out house. Although we are not actually shown his splattered remains, we know what has happened thanks to Ursula's big reaction scene. It's obvious she is witnessing the horrible, gory death of her betrothed... either that, or noticing a dead cockroach in the corner of her local Chinese restaurant. Not to cast any aspersions on Ursula's acting skills, but I've shown more distress than that when confronted with a paper jam in the photocopier.
In any case, the platoon is now stuck with an unattached hot blonde Swiss bikini babe, and she starts to exert a comforting feminine presence over the men. The new commander of the platoon is protective towards her, and their relationship seems to have the potential for more than just platoon commander/hot blonde Swiss bikini babe. His second-in-command, baby-faced psychopath Lt. Custer (Richard Jaeckel), resists Ursula's charms but nevertheless begins to open up to her, as he bathes naked in a handy river.AF'07: WHY ARE YOU SHOWING RICHARD JAECKEL'S NAKED ARSE WHEN URSULA ANDRESS IS AVAILABLE RIGHT NEXT TO HIM??? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE???
But Ursula's compassion is tested when one of the soldiers admits to her that he's only 22 years old, and has never known the touch of a woman. He believes that death is just around the corner for all of them, and he wants Ursula to... er... ease his burden.
Ursula isn't too convinced, but her heart has gone out to the younger man, and she decides to give it the old college try. I don't know which old college that would be, but whichever it is, I wouldn't mind attending their graduation ceremony! Wowrrrr!
In a fair and reasonable world, there should have followed a lot of slo-mo, soft focus writhing with a little tasteful nudity (if only to rinse the sight of Richard Jaeckel's pale butt cheeks from our collective eyeballs). However, for reasons only known to himself, John Derek cut the scene before any action got underway, with Ursula looking blank while Private Virgin strokes her cheek. The next time we see her, she's fully clothed and running off into the woods, with tears streaming down her face.
What is Private Virgin to make of that, one wonders? "I had sex with Ursula Andress, and then she ran away crying." I don't think that this was quite the reaction he was hoping for.
Eventually the platoon is hemmed in by the advancing Japanese, and the big climactic battle scene occurs. Even though she doesn't have a gun, and spends most the battle tottering from one piece of cover to the next like a tin duck in a shooting gallery, Ursula is the only one who doesn't get killed. Just think - if a whole battalion of these apparently invulnerable hot blonde Swiss bikini babes had been available in 1941, the war might have been over before it even started!
The film ends with Ursula standing on the beach, with dead soldiers in all directions, looking just slightly concerned at this development in her fortunes. Possibly her distress was caused by a sudden, psychic vision of her career in 16 years' time, when she was caught up in the fiery train wreck that was our final AndressFest '07 movie.
The shapely, well-honed buttocks of one of these actors were flashed during this movie. Guess which one? Okay. Now guess again.