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>
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 »
I watched this movie today for the first time after stumbling across it on the IMDb a few weeks back.
I'm a big Gene Hackman fan and a war film fan so I didn't think I could go wrong purchasing this sight unseen.
Without detailing the plot too much, it is fair to say that this is standard Legionnaire in North Africa fare and not a lot different from Films like Beau Geste and the Van Damme Legionnaire film (which would seem to be a vastly inferior remake of this film).
The film starts at a slow pace. In some of the early bits the acting is a bit wooden and the film also gives the appearance of being made for TV (it gets much better).
Unfortunately the picture was a little bit grainy and I doubt it is a big enough film for any kind or restoration to ever be done on it.
Through reading the boards for this film it seems that there have been some cuts made to the Region 2 DVD and this may explain why the film seemed a bit slow to develop.
I was particularly impressed with the locations and sets used.
Hackman also started slowly but got better as the movie went along and he really hit his straps later in the film. Terence Hill was very good in a sort of role I haven't seen him in before.
The film takes the time to highlight the stereotypical harsh living conditions endured by the men in the Legion and also the strict discipline imposed on them, many of whom come from ill-disciplined backgrounds.
The injection of a love story into some war films (like Enemy at the Gates or Pearl Harbor) detracts from the overall quality of the film and seems to be done to create a wider audience appeal. In this film that is certainly not the case and the romance between Hill and Catherine Deneuve's characters seems to complement the rest of the film nicely.
There is only one real battle scene which comes towards the end of the film but it was worth the wait. Prior to this there are a couple of other tense scenes involving the Legionnaires and the Arabs.
The final battle can only be described as epic. It was one of the better large scale battle scenes I have seen in a movie (no CGI when this was made).
The film was not without some faults (I may be mistaken but my understanding has always been that while men of many nationalities serve in the Foreign Legion, the officers are all French) but it is certainly underrated.
Much better then some recent Hollywood fare we have been served up such as We Were Soldiers (also reviewed by me) and Windtalkers
I give it 7 out of 10.
Well worth seeing if you like a good war film.
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