Once Before I Die (John Derek / U.S., 1966):

The fall of the Philippines as interrupted pin-up pictorial, at once glossy and jagged. Preminger's In Harm's Way is shrunk to shoebox size for the opening raid, a bombardment that leaves a polo match strewn with corpses and the screen chocked with solarized superimpositions. "Let's not have a crying session, boys. The war's just started!" The road to Manila begins with the gorgeous ninny (Ursula Andress) aboard a green Mercedes amid the refugees (the convertible is last seen with a cigar-chomping crone behind the wheel), the U.S. Cavalry major (John Derek) watches over her until he exits with grenade and teddy bear. Bald, grinning and spoiling for some carnage, Lt. Custer (Richard Jaeckel) takes over, too busy with his gatling gun to notice the blonde rose atop the jungle dunghill. Derek's Fear and Desire, as it were, freeze-frames and zooms in an ungainly tribute to the muse in the soaked blouse that nevertheless looks ahead to the psychedelic frenzy of Vietnam. (Coppola borrows a sketch or three for Apocalypse Now.) The dramatic crux is the hedonist's education in hell—Andress listens to the virginal soldier's plea and lends herself to him while a Japanese tank is conquered, the grunt goes on to die with a smile but the enemy rifle at the close perishes before a vision of vaporous beauty. "La mort coeur renversé," says Eluard, Wilde's Beach Red is concurrent. With Ron Ely, Rod Lauren, and Vance Skarstedt.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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