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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Gene Hackman had been experiencing pains in his back. The film's insurance company refused to allow the shooting to continue because a permanent injury to Hackman could have cost it a lot of money. The insurers suggested shooting the film somewhere in the deserts of the United States. But the color of the sand dunes in Agadir is not the same as the color of the sand in Nevada. Several big American transport planes were used to transport tons of sand from the Agadir dunes in order to camouflage the sand of Nevada. (Source: Beyond Casablanca, Page 131). See more »
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 »
[Major Foster and others are sitting down to dine with the ship's captain as they transit to North Africa]
Ah, an American in the Foreign Legion, eh?
Maj. William Sherman Foster:
Yes... That's why they call it the "Foreign" Legion, Captain.
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March Or Die, the grim slogan of the French Foreign Legion is the title of this film starring Gene Hackman as an American with the Legion in World War I. The time is post the first World War and the Legion is now returning to colonial policing duty in the various French colonies of North Africa.
Where during their absence the natives of Islamic persuasion have become quite restless and they've found themselves a leader in Ian Holm playing the real Abdel Krim. Krim is looking for something to unite the various tribes under his banner and he's found a cause in an archaeological expedition headed by Max Von Sydow that is being accompanied by Hackman and his troops on their return to Morocco.
In real life Krim was quite the charismatic leader and a warrior as opposed to a terrorist. His exploits were front page news around the world and a caricature of him is the basis for the operetta The Desert Song by Sigmund Romberg.
Von Sydow wants to dig up some precious relics and the gold contained therein for the French treasury. That's why he's getting Legion protection. Hackman is of mixed feelings as he's seen too much of war recently on the western front.
March Or Die is a fine film and a fitting tribute to the Legion who though made of the riffraff of the world has a combat record second to none. These guys know they're society's dregs and there's plenty more where they came from. So straggling is not encouraged.
Hackman, Von Sydow and Holm fill their roles out well. And there are two other principal parts, Catherine Deneuve as a widow financing the Von Sydow expedition and Terrence Hill taking a break from spaghetti westerns playing a jewel thief who gets kind of hammerlocked into joining the Legion in Paris.
The battle scenes and other scenes depicting life in the Legion weren't staged any better in the many incarnations of Beau Geste. March Or Die will be the ultimate Foreign Legion film.
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