During the 1920s, French Foreign Legion Major William Foster's (Gene Hackman'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 William Foster (Gene 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 Segrain (Terence 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. Arab leader El Krim (Sir Ian 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 Zulu (1964). Costumes, firearms, and props are all very authentic-looking, and show great attention to detail.Written by
Cameron Fairchild <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 »
[a battered group of legionares marched through a train station, while the crowd chanted the French national anthem; the first actual lines are about 4 minutes within the movie]
[to a line of German prisioners]
If you join the French Foreign Legion, remember: there are no questions asked. Come! Join the Legion!
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The one major network showing of "March or Die" was considerably different from the original release, with a great deal of additional footage and a completely different ending. At the end of the original release Marco (Hill) gives a rousing speech to replacement Legionnaires, which is word-for-word the same speech Foster (Hackman) gave recruits near the beginning of the film. (To potential deserters: "If the Legion doesn't get you, the Arabs will. If the Arabs don't get you, the desert will. And if the desert doesn't get you... I will.) A caravan is leaving the fort behind Marco as he gives his speech. The original release ends on this note, implying that Marco has stepped into Foster's shoes as loyal Legion commander. In the network showing, after Marco delivers his speech, we see Marco deserting. He has slipped into Arab garb and joined the caravan leaving the fort. The Sergeant-Major is shown smiling at him, implying that he is complicit in Marco's desertion. Also in the network showing: A fierce desert battle between a legion column and Arab raiders. The entire battle is deleted from the original release. The column is led by the mean Lieutenant. In one scene, the mean Lieutenant is shown placing a pistol to his head and committing suicide. The scene does not appear in the original release. In addition, in the original release, the footage of the mean Lieutenant firing his pistol during the column's battle with raiders, is edited into the final battle scene at the archaological dig. The effect is quite jarring, as he has not been present for about a third of the film. See more »
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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