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Really a very good war movie, but could have been epic
Eric-12264 April 2011
This movie *could* have been as epic a movie as, say, "Apocalypse Now," "Lawrence of Arabia," or "Platoon." Instead we have a colorful, atmospheric period piece, set largely in the Moroccan desert, that plays like a wealthier version of "The Siege of Firebase Gloria." Not that that in itself serves to denigrate this movie. Not at all. Heck, "The Siege of Firebase Gloria" is a pretty decent war pic in its own right. It's just that I get this nagging feeling, that "March or Die," with a little extra input on production values, wider desert shots, more background flashbacks, etc., *could* have been a much more memorable, larger-than-life sort of picture.

But what "March or Die" lacks in the sheer epic expanse of other big-name war movies, it more than makes up for with carefully measured performances by the principal characters, not the least of which is that turned in by Gene Hackman, who plays a certain Major Foster - a cynical but nonetheless highly disciplined former American officer, booted from the "vaunted" army of America, who has found his military niche in the austere, almost mysterious world of the French Foreign Legion.

How exactly a Yank ends up in command of a Foreign Legion battalion leaves a little to the imagination - or at least prompts the viewer to make the necessary allowances for artistic license. True, the FFL was, and is, open to recruits from just about any country, but most of the officer ranks are usually reserved for the French. Some of the officers do in fact work their way up from the bottom, so maybe this explains Major Foster's leadership position.

In any case, I felt it was one of the better performances of Hackman's career. Though his Major Foster is an officer clearly under a lot of personal stress, with a lot of "ghosts in his closet," Hackman carefully avoids the temptation to imbue this man with excessive amounts of passion that I seem to associate with a Gene Hackman performance. And it works well in this movie, because he is *supposed* to be a man of discipline. In fact one of his more memorable lines in the movie is when he reminds a group of unruly recruits, on their way to joining up with the Legion, that "the Legion is the most disciplined army in the world."

The movie itself is a fairly engrossing mixture of military action and political intrigue - namely, certain powers in France saw fit to use Major Foster's Legion battalion as a sort of "protection squad" to help protect a vital archaeological dig in the Moroccan desert, on lands traditionally inhabited by various Arab tribes. Neither the Arab tribesmen, nor Major Foster himself, are really too keen on the prospect of foreigners coming in to usurp other peoples' wealth. But Major Foster, ever the military man in spite of creeping cynicism, does what he is told, or, as he coldly explains to El Krim, the leader of one of the militant tribes (nicely played, oddly enough, by British actor Ian Holm): "A soldier goes where he is sent."

A very interesting host of characters comes into play throughout the movie, including Max Von Sydow as the archaeologist intent on digging up the treasure in the desert - not only for the glory and coffers of France, but, we can assume, for his own personal aggrandizement.

The Legionnaires themselves are an odd and, at times, colorful lot, much as you'd expect from a disparate group of desperate lads, all seeking anonymity, adventure, escape, redemption, or whatever else it is they expect to find in the Foreign Legion: there is Marco, a slippery jewel thief who seems to con his way in and out of everyone's life, but nevertheless has a heart of gold (though, at times, you wonder if he didn't steal that gold in a heist); there is a tragically inept soldier known only as Top Hat, a former musician whose background and reasons for being in the Legion are never really explained; there is a hard-as-nails battalion officer, a certain Lt. Fontaine, who gives no mercy to the troops, and expects none in return - only discipline. There are assorted other nationalities represented in this odd mix of Legion troops, including a young British lad who meets a particularly unpleasant fate at the hands of the Arabs; a handful of ex-German soldiers, joining up after Germany's defeat in the recently-ended Great War; and also an expatriate Russian, named Ivan, who seems to represent some of the human global spillage caused by the Russian Revolution, just then occurring in his homeland. The Legion seems to be not only the best, but perhaps the only, place for him, and the rest of them, to call home.

Last but not least is beautiful Catherine Deneuve, in a minor role, playing a war-weary French widow, thrown into this Moroccan mix due to circumstances beyond her control. I really liked her appearance in this movie. Though she didn't have a particularly heavy part, I would not call her the obligatory female "fluff" - she did in fact add some balance and nuance to the story that, for me anyway, was really quite meaningful.

The movie ends with an epic battle scene reminiscent of other siege-type movies, where the onslaught of seemingly endless streams of enemy soldiers against a thinly-defended garrison IS the battle royale, the raison d'etre of the entire movie. The battle scene is well-done and ultimately poignant. In fact, the entire movie was well-done and poignant. It just seemed to be lacking those few extra points that snatched it from the jaws of greatness. Be that as it may, it is a great war movie worth seeing by any die-hard war movie fan. And if it prompts you to study further about the history of the French Foreign Legion, as it did me, then, so much the better.
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More Like March and Die
Bogmeister18 August 2005
This is THE French Foreign Legion movie, mainly because there aren't very many of them. Jean-Claude Van Damme starred in a sort of remake in '98 ("Legionnaire"). This features a truly international cast. The lead American is Gene Hackman, as the major commander of the outpost. Terence Hill is best known for his "Trinity" character in spaghetti western comedies from Italy. He plays a new recruit, an acrobatic thief who quickly becomes an unofficial hero among the men. Von Sydow is the Swedish member, who made his name in Ingmar Bergman films; he plays an archaeologist here. Deneuve, as a visiting daughter of a deceased associate of Von Sydow's, is the famous French actress. Ian Holm is British, but plays the Arab leader. Also on hand is Jack O'Halloran, ex-boxer, as a giant ex-bodyguard for the swept away Russian aristocracy. He appeared in "Superman" the following year.

As most people know, the Legion was composed of men who no longer had a place anywhere else in the world. They're all on the run from something or someone, and it's spelled out here, more than once. The time is just after World War I; the place is Morocco. The picture doesn't skimp on detailing this atmosphere; there was obviously a lot of money well spent on getting it right, though Hackman always seems a bit out of place (I believe Legion commanders had to be French, but you can do much worse than Hackman). If anything, it dwells a bit too much on detail and the first hour is tedious. The pic still didn't explain for me the purpose of having the men trudge endlessly in the desert sands, except maybe to weed out weaklings. There's a touching subplot involving a sad sack legionnaire whom Hill is unable to save despite continual effort. Mostly, the story revolves around the hardship involved, accompanied by a required sadism on the part of commanders, to get by day to day in the Legion.

It all points to a thrilling battle in the final act, when the Arab leader sends his hordes against the vastly outnumbered legionnaires, who seem stuck in a 'fight to the last man' scenario. The plot has Hackman under orders to provide guard at an excavation site, giving Holm an excuse to unite the tribes in a bloody attack. It's eye-opening to hear the Arab leader speak of resisting all foreigners and realize nothing much has changed even as I type this. But the final battle is spectacular, reminiscent of "Zulu." Though outnumbered about 20 to 1, the Legion makes effective use of rapid-fire weapons. Photographed on a great location, there are some startling images of numerous bodies littering the sands. I acquired an R2 DVD, which is the best way of viewing this film at this point.
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Unheard of, Underrated, Very Enjoyable.
ColonelFaulkner5 July 2004
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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Great cast AND really good movie
sm.starman2 November 2000
MARCH OR DIE has one impressive cast: Gene Hackman, Terence Hill (in one of his rare movie that you can take seriously), Catherine Deneuve, Max von Sydow, Ian Holm...

Great script that has everything well balanced: humor, action, suspense, drama. It will please those who like good war movies, those who like historical movies, and those who like just plain good movies!

This is the ultimate movie about one of the ultimate elite troop in history: the Légion Étrangère.
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ereinion27 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I found this film underrated both by critics and specially audience.I mean,its the only film where you get the chance of seeing Gene Hackman and Terence Hill sharing the screen,not to mention Catherine Deneuve as lovely as always.Hackman's role is interesting and he never once fails in bringing it to life.Its touching,specially in the end where he dies.

Hill does his best part ever without a doubt.I was surprised to see him pull off such a good role.A fine supporting cast includes Max Von Sydow and Ian Holm,as well as giant Jack O'Halloran in a memorable role as the Russian soldier Ivan.Anyway,i think the audience failed to see the real value here,as it often happens.It is a story of the Legion and its soldiers,but not just that.It includes strong issues such as imperialism,religious fanatism and the harsh army discipline,with a good love story thrown in.I dont know what else can you possibly want?

A solid 8.
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Good Early Effort From Bruckheimer . Could Have Been Slightly Better
Theo Robertson4 March 2013
Immediately after the Great War 1914-18 Major Foster an American born officer in the French Foreign Legion . A disillusioned man who has seen more than enough of the horrors of war , Foster looks forward to more peaceful times only to hear of a spreading insurrection led by El Krim , a Beeber warlord who wants to liberate Morroco from French rule and Foster is sent to put down the insurrection

This is an early production from Jerry Bruckheimer who in the 1980s went on to be the most successful commercial film producer in Hollywood . His films included BEVERLEY HILLS COP , FLASHDANCE and TOP GUN . His films were rarely a hit with critics but what he was very good at was mixing aspects to gain maximum publicity for movies and fill multiplexes . Who can forget Eddie Murphy driving along LA with The Heat Is On blasting out in the foreground or or boys and girls flocking to the cinema in equal numbers to see Tom Cruise fall in love and shoot down enemy jets after which the audience would buy the official soundtrack album . Studios are only interested in profit margins and if a film makes a ton of money then who cares if it didn't win an Oscar ? You have to admit Bruckheimer was always excellent at whta he did

MARCH OR DIE shows early signs at what the producer was trying to achieve - make a film that would appeal to the action adventure market while still appealing to critics . It's interesting during this early period of his career Bruckheimer still might have wanted to win an Oscar for Best Film . THE CULPEPPER CATTLE CO. and FAREWELL MY LOVELY both directed by Dick Richards are two very impressive films from The New Hollywood period and you can see in this film a mix of character exploration and big battle action sequences

The problem is that it doesn't quite come off . You can see Gene Hackman, Major Foster as a tortured man with ghosts from the past realising the only way to lay his demons to rest is via Catherine Deneuve's Mme Picard but the film concentrate too much on Terence Hill's Marco to make this possible . Hill effectively plays the comic acrobatic character which he was best known for in the Italian Westerns alongside Bud Spencer and Marco - unlike Foster - never comes across as a real life character . Likewise the rest of the characters who join the Legion are entirely one dimensional clichés

Two things that do work is firstly El Krim the noble but superstitious leader . In 1977 the average Westerner would have little reaction to the word " Muslim " one way or another . Certainly El Krim is the villain of the story but he's written and played by Iah Holm as someone who fears progress rather than someone who just wants to slaughter Infidels . You wouldn't get a Muslim baddie like this in a movie nowadays . Secondly the long awaited battle sequence when it does come certainly doesn't disappoint

In summary MARCH OR DIE is a historical epic that that tries to appeal to everyone at the same time while never consistently appealing to anyone . That said is rather impressive in parts but you do feel slightly upset that the movies can't sustain it over the whole course of the movie and it does contain a lot of dross
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The Grim Slogan of the Foreign Legion
bkoganbing20 January 2013
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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Love and War in a French Colonized Morocco
Chrysanthepop22 November 2008
Dick Richards's 'March or Die' is an interesting film set in Morocco during the French colonization. It nicely entangles the war drama and the love triangle. As the captain, we see a ruthless William but his feelings for Simone show a more human side. Marco is the clever thief and a skilled smooth talker with a good heart but he too has a vulnerable side. Simone is perhaps the most complex of characters as she is ambivalent concerning William and in love with Marco though she cannot bring herself to say it. The main characters are quite well fleshed out. The pacing is slow at times. The love sequences are well executed and it is very well underplayed. There is no sugar syrupy moment. The cinematography is okay. A wonderful Gene Hackman is both hateful and sympathetic. Terence Hill performs very naturally. Max Von Sydow is good but Ian Holm is unintentionally funny and it looks as if he's mocking a Moroccan tribes leader rather than playing it. A radiant Catherine Deneuve is sublime. Gosh, she looks so beautiful! The rest of the cast do well. The movie sort of has a dated feel to it but 'March or Die' is good enough watch for a Thursday night.
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i liked it much!
asinyne25 December 2005
This is a very unusual film in some ways, and very interesting. Gene Hackman is good, and Terence Hill is excellent in a different part for him. Hill almost seems to be acting as Steve Mcqueen. Whatever his technique, its effective. There is one thing that sets this film apart from every other movie out there, it has one of the all time great battles. Yes, it has to be one of the best ever filmed, a thing of true beauty. Violent, gritty, and very realistic. You can feel the desperation as the legionaires frantically play out their own version of Custer's Last Stand. Truthfully, the big climatic battle scene could stand alone as a good film. If you like Hackman or Hill/Mcqueen don't miss this one. Papillion joins the Foreign Legion...very cool!!!!! Loved it
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a great movie about the French Foreign Legion in the desert
Thunderbolt13 July 2000
This movie was a very good effort, full of great detail and authentic props. Gene Hackman is the leader of this group of men in the French foreign legion assigned to protect men that are digging up artifacts in Morocco. The natives aren't to happy with this and in the end one of the greater combat scenes on film unfolds.If you like seeing good battles and fights against arabs in the desert, you'll like this one.
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"The legion is my army now".
mylimbo20 April 2013
No questions asked. Join the legion. "March or Die" is a commendably sprawling old-fashion action adventure with plenty of spirit and a touch of romance (where Hill would do some striking carriage jumping to encounter the lovely Deneuve), which is crisply directed by Dick Richards. At the end of World War One, a division of the French foreign legion led by Major Foster is ordered to protect an archaeological dig, as the last expedition was slaughtered by the Arabs. Foster despises the orders, but must follow them and this excites the wrath of Arab leader El Krim who uses this to unite all the tribes to lead an attack on the foreigners.

For these types of films, it offers no real surprises but does grip and bestow some powerful sequences and vivid local colour. The talented cast acquit themselves very well. Gene Hackman gives a well rounded performance, rather harden and solemn, but a major who does care for his men. Terence Hill brings charm to his carefree role as the newly enlisted legionnaire. The rapport he shares with the cast is simply spellbinding; especially with his fellow rag-tag legionnaires and his athletic abilities provided much amusement. The classy Max Von Sydow shows up as an idealistic archaeologist and turning the men's heads was the delectably headstrong Catherine Deneuve. A polite sounding Ian Holm brings a great deal of intensity as the powerful Arab leader trying to invoke religious fanaticism. Also Jack O'Halloran has his moments.

The plot's build-up is slow and melancholy, but concise which gave time for different story arches and characters to open up, albeit in a clichéd manner. Watching Hackman's Major and Hill's legionnaire respectably going at each other in a battle of wits was basic, but nonetheless harsh and effective. Sometimes trying to get your message across, does come at a price. After a talky set-up and then the boot- training, it got to business. The action is fairly one-note, but still with some sting as its kept for a cracking finale where against the odds the legionnaires find themselves up against waves upon waves of advancing Arabs wanting nothing but their blood. Also it's beautifully shot capturing the grand scope of the production with all details covered from the sets to the costumes.

"In the legion you march or die".
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March or Die
endlessrain9 November 2004
is this film a classic? It surely has certain elements that could make

it one. Catherine Deneuve at her best, at the very pinnacle of her

beauty; Max Von Sydow as an archeologist who convinces the French gov't to resume digging in ruins in morocco, in an area containing unruly and savage Berber tribes that have slaughtered all comers; Gene Hackman as the legionnaire captain who has to break his promise to those very tribes that they would never venture into the area again; the guy who played Jaws in James Bond as a Russian 'volunteer' to the legion, sporting a beard that any Taliban would be envious of; some unknown as Marco, a riviera jewel thief, also 'volunteered' into the legion and a cast of doomed conscripts.

The whole film plays out like a funeral procession. the captain

(Hackman) keeps spouting his bile at the gov't, the authorities, the academics, etc. who have condoned this suicide mission, knowing full well they are throwing away men's lives for nothing. He keeps raving in fact even as the Arab tribes are massing and charging toward them.

As in any classic French foreign legion film, the doomed legionnaires are holed up in the ruins of an old castle, hopelessly outnumbered with no escape. if the Arabs don't kill them, the desert will. If the desert

doesn't kill them, the legion will kill them as deserters. There is no

salvation. Only death with honor.

In fact, there is little suspense in the film, as everyone involved

considers the mission absolutely hopeless. And they are right: they

are all gunned down or hacked apart by the desert marauders. The director has a strange sense of cruelty, methodically showing them getting it, one by one.

It's a weird sort of film that relishes and wallows in pure

nihilism. One is left wondering, 'what was the point?'.

I guess that was the idea. I kept waiting for a Hollywood ending, a

speck of optimism on the horizon, a sudden miraculous twist, but as the

credits rolled to a sonorous drum beat i realized, 'Hmmm... this is it, I guess'.

The gloom and doom telegraphed from the very beginning

played out step by step with no surprises or hitches. Sort of a

strange exercise in film-making, if you ask me.

Didn't Gene Hackman comment on this baby, "March or Die: the audience marched in and this film died"?
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Adventures with the French Foreign Legion in Sahara desert starred by the great Gene Hackman and Terence Hill
ma-cortes27 March 2008
This is a nice story of courageous men who have every gone out to face death ; dealing with an American Major named Foster (Gene Hackman) , recently finished WWI , he joined the French foreign Legion , and is assigned (by Max Von Sidow) to guard an archaeological expedition in Morocco desert . The ragtag team is formed by a rascal soldier named Mario (Terence Hill) , joined to avoid jail , a Russian corpulent (Jack O'Halloran) , a tough corporal (Vernon Dobtcheff) and a sadistic lieutenant (Marcel Bozzuffi) , among others . Following a full-clichéd plot with a brutal commanding , plenty of cruel punishments and brutality of training . Besides , the inevitable mystery woman (Catherine Deneuve) who falls in love with Mario . But the Foster's unit is attacked by Al Krim , an Arab leader who actually lived -in fact , he united the Morrocan tribes to battle French and Spanish army in the North of Africa until being defeated in Alhucemas- . The tiny garrison at the dig making a last stand against the assaults (in the wake to ¨Zulu¨ by Cy Endfield and ¨Dawn Zulu¨ by Douglas Hickox) .

This adventure-epic movie contains agreeable acting , drama , noisy action , breathtaking battles and spectacular outdoors . Filmed on location in the Sahara desert , including an impressive production design by Gil Parrondo and marvelous cinematography by excellent cameraman John Alcott . The movie belongs to Foreign Legion genre , the story gets reminiscent with classic movies such as ¨Under two flags¨ (with Ronald Colman) , ¨Beau Geste¨ (Gary Cooper)¨and recently made ¨Legionnaire¨ (with Jean Claude Van Damme) . The pic was lavishly produced by the famous producer Jerry Bruckheimer along with Lew Grade . The motion picture was professionally directed by Dick Richards , and he gets efficiently to remain the adventure and action until the final . Before entering the film industry , Dick Richards was a contributing photographer for Life magazine , subsequently turning into filmmaking . Richards is a good craftsman who has directed a few films but of great quality , such as ¨The Culpepper Cattle¨, ¨March or die¨ , Death valley¨ , ¨Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins ¨and ¨Farewell my lovely¨ at his best . In addition , he found the script for 'Tootsie' and co-produced it with Sydney Pollack . Rating : Acceptable and passable . Well worth watching for Gene Hackman fans and adventure cinema enthusiasts.
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Downbeat view of life in the Legion
heedarmy18 March 2007
Following his success with "Farewell My Lovely", ITC invited Dick Richards to pay homage to another quintessentially 30s genre, the Foreign Legion movie.

Unfortunately, he seems to have followed his instructions rather too literally. One imagines that ITC executives were horrified by the finished product, a gloomy, downbeat affair that went over-budget (according to Lew Grade) and which focuses on brutality and despair, rather than on heroism and adventure. Some choppy editing betrays signs of studio intervention to try to make the film more acceptable to modern audiences. Nevertheless, it's a long haul to the admittedly splendid battle which concludes the film.

"March or Die" is not without its merits, however. There's a superb cast and beautifully-lit, painting-like images from the great cinematographer, John Alcott. At its best the film catches a haunting mood of futility and sadness and it treats all sides - the Legion, their opponents, the archaeologists led by Max Von Sydow - with surprising even-handedness. Maurice Jarre's evocative love theme is also worthy of note.

The films' biggest flaw, however, is its uneven treatment of the Foreign Legion itself. It wavers uncertainly between 30s-style adulation and 70s-era condemnation. The climax asks us to salute the enduring courage and martial traditions of the Legion, yet this contrasts oddly with the sadism and brutality we witnessed earlier. Do we really wish to admire an institution which encourages its men to abandon colleagues and let them die in the desert?
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Ambitious attempt to resurrect an old-fashioned genre, killed by leaden pacing and a sub-par Hackman performance.
Jonathon Dabell23 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
You can tell a Lew Grade production a mile off – distinctly British in style; epic in conception; peopled by international all-star casts; usually set in exotic climes. It's a formula that Grade and his company ITC employed throughout the 70s into the early 80s, resulting in titles like The Eagle Has Landed, Firepower, and Raise The Titanic! In 1977 Grade produced March Or Die, a remarkably old-fashioned Foreign Legion adventure that models all the characteristics mentioned above. Directed by the usually dependable Dick Richards – who helmed the acclaimed Farewell My Lovely just a couple years earlier - March Or Die is an unfortunate disappointment.

A company of Foreign Legionnaires led by the harsh disciplinarian General Foster (Gene Hackman) is sent to Morocco shortly after World War 1. Their mission is to protect an archaeological party fronted by the dedicated Francois Marneau (Max Von Sydow). The archaeologists are carrying out an excavation at the ancient city of Erfoud, but fear an attack from Arab tribesmen following the decimation of an earlier archaeological group. Foster is not happy with the assignment – he does not consider historical artifacts worthy of his men risking their lives. This creates ongoing tension between himself and Marneau, who believes that the legionnaires should sacrifice their lives to make the excavation possible. The problems heighten when a beautiful woman named Simone Picard (Catherine Deneuve) tags along with the legionnaires. She is hoping to find out what happened to her father, a historian abducted by the Arabs when they wiped out the first archaeological team. Her presence arouses desires amongst the legionnaires, none more so than gypsy thief Marco Segrain (Terence Hill), a charming and courageous rogue who initially shows indifference towards his legionnaire colleagues but gradually grows in stature. Things climax with a huge battle at Erfoud, with swarms of united Arab tribes charging against the handful of legionnaires as they desperately try to defend their lives.

On paper the star duo of Gene Hackman and Terence Hill seem a mismatch – Hackman is the heavyweight Oscar-winning character actor, Hill the handsome but limited Italian heart-throb from numerous low budget spaghetti westerns. One expects Hackman to act his counterpart off the screen. Yet, bizarrely, it is Hackman who gives the weak and uninvolving performance, while Hill raises his game to surprisingly high levels. The film is attractively shot on desert locations, but the pacing is awfully slow and few of the characters are worth caring for. Maurice Jarre's music is uncommonly flat too – very disappointing from the guy who gave us the Lawrence Of Arabia score. It is remarkable that anyone had the nerve to try an old-fashioned adventure of this type in the 70s (it was a genre that peaked in the 30s, and had been all but forgotten during the intervening decades). Sadly, the gamble doesn't really pay off – this homage to the legionnaire flicks of old becomes more of a plod than a march.
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MARCH OR DIE (Dick Richards, 1977) **1/2
MARIO GAUCI9 February 2008
My first viewing of this one came via a local TV screening back in the early 1980s when we still only had a black-and-white TV set and the film has virtually vanished without a trace from TV screens since then. I had originally intended to revisit it over the Christmas period – along with other exotic adventure films I've seen at the time like CHU-CHIN-CHOW (1934), ABDUL THE DAMNED (1935) and FORT ALGIERS (1953) – but I had to postpone those plans; now that I've watched the "Carry On" spoof of Foreign Legion films, FOLLOW THAT CAMEL (1967), it seemed an appropriate time to give it another look. Obviously, I don't usually go for pan-and-scan transfers of widescreen films but, as I said, this film has become such a rarity that I leapt at the chance to watch this one again on the R2 DVD I found at a local rental store.

Anyway, during the 1970s it became fashionable to revive old Hollywood genres and the master at this game was Peter Bogdanovich but, equally successful, was Dick Richards with his Philip Marlowe adaptation FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975); unfortunately, both directors would soon have a dud on their hands – Bogdanovich with the musical pastiche AT LONG LAST LOVE (1975) and Richards with MARCH OR DIE! Rewatching it now, it's hardly as disastrous as its reputation would have you believe: in fact, I thought that, shot by shot, it was quite well directed. What it clearly needed was a more exciting plot, a less predictable narrative and, most importantly perhaps, a more suitable leading man. While personally I got a kick out of seeing childhood favorite Terence Hill (i.e. Italian Spaghetti Western/action-comedy film star Mario Girotti) share the screen with such acting heavyweights as Gene Hackman, Catherine Deneuve, Max Von Sydow and Ian Holm, his light touch was clearly inadequate for the role of the thief-turned-soldier who falls foul of his misanthropic Captain (Hackman) but is soon consoled by a French belle (Deneuve).

Deneuve made one of her infrequent appearances in an English-speaking film and, while her character is not exactly given much to do, she is more "troubled" than she at first appears: she is fascinated by the old lady in the whorehouse (shades of BELLE DE JOUR [1967] perhaps?) and sacrifices herself to Hackman in order to save Hill from dooming himself for her love (as others had done before him); Von Sydow also antagonizes Hackman in his quest to unearth the priceless archaeological relics found in the desert – which, to the latter, belong to the Arabs (who are more than welcome to them) and, being a renegade American, sees no point in increasing the glory of France through the loss of the lives of his men (most of which are also foreigners); Ian Holm plays the cultured but ruthless Arab leader and, it was also nice to see Hackman share the screen once more with Marcel Bozzuffi (whom he had famously dispatched in THE FRENCH CONNECTION [1971]) and Jack O' Halloran (who would go on to play Non, one of the villainous Kryptonian trio in the first two SUPERMAN films); the latter was also in Richards' FAREWELL, MY LOVELY and I recently had the pleasure to talk to him on this very Forum about the film under review itself!

As usual, the film-makers' heart was set in the right place given their employment of, not just the star-studded international cast, but also cinematographer John Alcott and composer Maurice Jarre but, as I said earlier, their good intentions were let down by a fairly routine plot which, despite the occasional, valiant interjections of existentialism a' la the previous year's THE DESERT OF THE TARTARS (which also featured Max Von Sydow and an unusually strong role for Italian heart-throb Giuliano Gemma!), fails to coalesce into a memorable or entire successful whole. Gene Hackman once said about MARCH OR DIE that the audience marched in and the film died: maybe they just couldn't take it seriously after seeing the whole Foreign Legion genre being sent up (yet again) on the screen just a few months earlier in British comic Marty Feldman's directorial debut, THE LAST REMAKE OF BEAU GESTE (1977)...
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La Legion not so Etranger; Solid Action film.
jsparacino19 October 2005
Forgotten film by Gene Hackman. This was the truest depiction based on the histories of the Legion of the so called "Beau Geste" period. The book didn't have as happy an ending but both are satisfying. The film has some interesting moments in its final battle scene where the Legionaires are running around using Lewis Light Machine guns as Tommy Guns. Catherine DeNeuve was reduced to window dressing unfortunately. And surprise of surprises; Ian Holm,who is so English, plays the Berber Leader, El Krim. Morocco is a long way from the Shire. Terence Stamp is surprising as a blond gypsy who rises to the military way of life after avoiding all discipline and authority.
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Butchered Masterpiece
joangreg19 August 2011
First off, I have seen two versions of this film. Surprisingly, the first time I saw it was on late night TV, and recalling from memory it was shown in two parts. SUPERB! It was about four full hours, and the plot and character development both made sense. THEN, I saw it was to be released in the theater (hurrah, I thought!). No. The film was destroyed by too much editing. Needless to say, I thought this whole situation weird because I remember seeing the much superior TV version before seeing the Theater version. What I major disappointment that was! Anyhow, those who have only seen the short version may wonder why Marco starts out in the movie in a different uniform (I believe he and his brother, which you never see, were in the Italian army, or something like that) and why you sort of see the the French Lt. (who looks like Charles Bronson)around the beginning, but then he sort of fades out of the script. Once again, I recall that the Arabs actually attacked the oasis at the very beginning of the movie (as seen on TV) and he was a sole survivor: Then later he kills himself. I only saw the TV version once, but this is what I recall. TV version: 9.5 out of 10. Theater version: 6.5 out of 10. Wish I could find the full version!
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Maybe the uncut version is better
Wizard-89 July 2016
Like most movies that producer Lew Grade made around this era, "March or Die" was a big box office failure, only returning eleven or so percent of its budget back. The lack of interest with audiences probably was because the whole Foreign Legion thing was by 1977 old hat. Indeed, the execution of the movie occasionally treats things in a very old fashioned manner, provoking giggles. An additional problem is that none of the characters are that well fleshed out, coming off more like stereotypes than three dimensional people. This may in part be because the currently available version of the movie (the theatrical version) was severely cut down from a much longer version (which played on TV ages ago and has disappeared.) As it is right now, there is a great feeling that a lot is missing. But this cut version of the movie does contain some merit. It looks good, with expert cinematography and good production values. It also sounds good, with a nice Maurice Jarre musical score. And occasionally there is a very good moment, the best being the climatic sequence. As I indicated earlier, there are hints that the uncut version may be a lot better than what we have to stick with now. If one day the uncut version is re-released, I'll definitely watch it and update this user comment.
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Taking over territory we had no business being in.
mark.waltz23 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
When I refer to we, I am referring to all of the nationalities involved in the French Foreign Legion, the famous military group made up of citizens of many countries who fought together for one common cause, mostly with a sense of adventure in the Middle East. World War I has come to an end, and there is unfinished business in Morocco. That involves the search for a treasure and precious artifact to learn about historical events that have yet to be discovered. They are from the United States, England, France, Russia, among others, joined together in one common cause-a need for excitement and a desire to serve in the military in places that they would most likely not see in their own countries. The invasion of sacred ground creates the conflict between the leader of the exposition (Gene Hackman) and the Moroccan leader (Ian Holm), once allies.

It is a tough fight for the soldiers to get there, having internal conflicts between members of different nations and ultimately their frustration over a very cruel drill sergeant who has no compassion or caring, leaving one man in the desert to die after he complains that his shoes are too small to continue moving. "March or die!", he commands, tossing the shoes over his shoulder and forcing the man to march barefoot. When another soldier tries to help the uncomfortable shoeless marcher, the sergeant becomes even more cruel, and this is followed by some drastic measures for the various soldiers in dealing with their plight.

Hackman's leader doesn't step up to the plate to discipline the evil drill sergeant, and in one scene when confronted by the Moroccan leader, who has taken prisoners of the European archaeologists, Hackman simply retaliates by shooting each of the prisoners in the head, getting that conflict with him out of the way. Little does he realize that one of the two men was the father whom the beautiful French Catherine Deneuve was traveling to meet. The conflicts continue to increase between the desert army's and the Foreign Legion soldiers and their leaders, and the finale is a tremendous battle sequence that will have you visited to the screen.

Produced by Sir Lew Grade, the filmmaker behind "Voyage of the Damned" and "The Cassandra Crossing", this is an elegant and handsome adventure film that grabs the audience immediately. As the new members of the Foreign Legion start to get together, this doesn't let up in battles and action. This is "Beau Gesye", "Lawrence of Arabia", with a bit of the Indiana Jones saga thrown in as well. Max von Sydow is present in a major role as one of the leading archaeologist who travels with the group to meet up with those whom Hackman later kills.

Outstanding photography and an excellent musical score add to the quality of this a great film which has somehow slipped through the cracks over the years. It is one of those major international releases that had attention when it first came out, but was overshadowed in a year dominated by "Star Wars", Saturday Night Fever" and "Annie Hall". Deneuve is strikingly beautiful and gives a performance quite restrained and dignified. For me however, the best performance was by Terence Hill as a scoundrel of a soldier who first get Deneuve's attention by stealing a pearl necklace from a passenger aboard the ship they are traveling on, and is disciplined by Hackman by forfeit liquor which make him lose his balance and fall down a flight of stairs in order to humiliate him in front of the other new members of the Foreign Legion.

There are many moments of cruelty and bloodshed, and some of it seems a bit gratuitous. However in the long run, all of this is necessary, because this is not an Arabian Nights story. This is parallel to the conflicts that were going on between the Middle East and America at the time, and an example of how a world that does not understand diversity cannot survive.
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March or Die or Go To Hell, I Don't Care !
elshikh415 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is a very tasteless movie. (Gene Hackman) is one of the finest, but in here I didn't quite get what was tempting for him to be in such a role. (Catherine Deneuve) looked very frigid. (Terence Hill) well.. what kind of genius thought that he was good as an actor to cast him as a lead star in a big production movie which relied on acting more than action ??? He was the worst element with his stupid smile and glassy eyes. Just imagine a young Jean-Paul Belmondo in the same role; that would have been amusingly immortal not the other way around !

As for the meaning of the whole thing, I didn't catch on what was the real deal of it ?, what's exactly the concept of March or Die ? Is it about a bunch of people who love to be dead ? Is it about the mankind's stupidity ? Is it about an everlasting war somewhere sometime that forces some people to march or die, or to march and die ??

We've been watching all along an elegy about the human who might find himself in a hell of absurd world where he must kill or be killed for no reason. So let's say it's about the uselessness of the war as well as the falseness of colonialism (great point of view through the character of El Krim) and how the soldiers went into death for no actual principal sometimes. But on the other hand, I didn't understand (Deneuve)'s character (Simone Picard). What was the dramatic use out of one soldier killing himself because he didn't succeed sexually with a whore who divulged him openly? Or how (the gypsy) turned into another man at the end (the man that he used to be his opposite !). Ahh, questions.. questions !

In fact, I developed a very resting rule lately : "Don't ask yourself a lot about a movie that didn't enjoy you that much", OH this is heaven guys ! I used nearly all my life to search for answers for too many questions. But you know what.. I clearly discovered that some movies don't deserve to tire yourself for them. Because whatever the golden results that you may find; you didn't love the movie in the first place, because anyhow anyway the movie didn't influence you with anything it presented. Bottom line : this is a case when I must say honestly and fully convinced that this movie is not for me.

P.S : I found out today that one of my reviews, that didn't have any kind of abuse for anything or anyone on plant earth, had been deleted because some "……." didn't like it ???!!! It's another new reason for not fatiguing myself in writing, concluding, or standing a movie; as long as whatever what I may write will upset someone somehow, AND our dear beloved site will erase that review for him ?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. It happens lots of times these days, and how the IMDb allows it easily and randomly. I think, if they let me publish my own point of view, with letting everybody delete anybody's point of view; then maybe there will be no more IMDb someday !!
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Problems from the Opening Sequence
jastdi226 March 2009
The opening sequence is supposed to show the Legion arriving in Paris on 13 Nov 1918. The troops pile off the train -- wearing the uniform in which the French Army, including the Legion, marched off to war in 1914! This a sure sign that the war flick you are about to see will be a turkey. (The French Army realized by 1915 that going to war in red trousers and dark blue overcoats was not working. Metropolitan French troops were put into "horizon blue" and Colonial troops were put into khaki.) The Claude Van-Damme (sp?) remake at least got the uniforms more or less right. Really is too bad when directors make these sorts of mistakes when they then go to all the effort to get other things right.
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Some real surprises here .....
merklekranz28 April 2017
First off, Gene Hackman is always excellent in authoritative roles, whether it be "March or Die" or "Hoosiers". As the commanding officer of a Legion assigned to protect a desert archaeological expedition, Hackman argues unsuccessfully, but quite convincingly, that the dig will have dire consequences. The real surprise here is Terence Hill as the soldier who resists authority. This is without question a completely different Terence Hill than the buffoon we see in his "spaghetti westerns". The film takes it's time to develop characters, and then trains them for their destiny with disaster in the desert. There is nothing predictable about this movie, as it has several twists that are non obvious. Recommended. - MERK
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great show
jazerbini24 October 2015
It is a very good movie. Honest, show faithfully the region, the people and customs of Morocco after the first World War conflict. The actors were well chosen. Catherine Deneuve has a discreet performance and Terence Hill friendly paper, quite suitable for your image shaped by Trinity and later Lucky Luke. Gene Hackman is the greatest actor of all time, safe and with great screen presence. This international cast also stand out Max Von Sydow as apparently forced context archaeologist but that ends up integrating the climate of war, and Ian Holm, very well chosen for the role of the Arab leader. Impressive. The photograph of the film is also excellent. The battle scenes are simply perfect, a few times, we have seen scenes so well prepared. And the Foreign Legion once again produces a beautiful film, as Beau Geste. It is worth watching it.
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