During the 1920s, French Foreign Legion Major William Foster's unit is protecting an archaeological dig but the discovery of an Arab sacred burial site prompts the angry Arab tribes to attack Foster's small garrison.
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Foreign Legion Major Foster (Hackman), an American haunted by his memories of the recently-ended Great War, is assigned to protect a group of archaeologists at their dig. Foster's unit includes the charming, thieving rascal Marco (Hill), who joined the Legion only to avoid prison. After long stretches portraying the boredom and hardship of day-to-day life in the Legion, Foster's command occupies a small village where the archaeologists believe they've found a burial site sacred to the Arabs. An Arab leader (Holm) uses this affront to unite the tribes in Jihad, and attacks the tiny Legion garrison at the dig. An epic battle follows, very reminiscent of the film "Zulu". Costumes, firearms, and props are all very authentic-looking, and show great attention to detail. Written by
Cameron Fairchild <email@example.com>
The Legion uses French military equipment and customs. Yet in one scene, when the new recruits are awakened one morning, an American bugle call (reveille) is used. See more »
[Top Hat has collapsed during an open desert march; Marco, without Fontaine's permission, falls out of formation to help his comrade]
Leave that man alone! In the Legion, you march, or die!... Get his pack and rifle, and rejoin the column.
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Gene Hackman's French Foreign Legion protects a grave excavation from desert tribes led by Ian Holm
"March or Die" is a good film, an entertaining film, and a splendidly-photographed film. It's really beautiful to watch. It has fine performances from its cast too, under good direction. It gets many of the details about the French Foreign Legion right. It treats the Arab tribe side with some respect and insight too, except for the staging of the attack on the Legion position.
Gene Hackman is the commander of a French Foreign Legion unit. He's been through World War I and lost most of 8,000 men. He's disillusioned with the waste of good soldiers. He's assigned to protect a project to excavate a tomb in the North African desert, the excavation being led by Max von Sydow. Hackman calls it grave-robbing. He realizes the insult to the native Arabs who are armed and ready to revolt against colonial rule. (Indeed, the Rif Rebellion in Morocco (1921-1926) united tribes and produced a short-lived republic, until the Spanish and French defeated them in 1926.) Ian Holm leads the Arab forces, and he sees an opportunity to unite the divided tribes by attacking the dig.
Maybe half and then some of the movie is taken up with the training of the legionnaires. The one doing the training is the suitably tough Marcel Bozzuffi. Among the recruits are Italian Terence Hill, Russian Jack O'Halloran and the Frenchman Andre Penvern.
March or die is 100% accurate as a title. The Legion is famous for marching as a discipline.
It's interesting to see the transformation of Hill's character. His independence at the outset gives way to the discipline, and he becomes the old hand at instilling that discipline.
The Berbers in Morocco used guerrilla techniques, which is how they won, at least at first. Their Spanish enemy lost by attrition, being outmaneuvered, disease and demoralization. This movie has the Arabs launching a frontal attack with immense loss of life. This is unrealistic.
The reason that the movie doesn't get a rating that's above average is that the story is sub-par. The picture is episodic. It doesn't build tension, suspense or even theme. The characters mostly stay the same, apart from Hill.
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