March or Die- 1977
This is what come from running out of good films to watch. A quick perusal of a list of films that came out in 1977 yeilds SF/fantasy films Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the war movie A Bridge Too Far, and David Lynch’s first mindbending film Eraserhead as some of the stand-out films. March or Die is not among them. Starring Terence Hill, Gene Hackman, Max Von Sydow, Ian Holm and the lovely Catherine Deneuve, March or Die is a terribly flawed film about the French Foreign Legion.
The cliches are plentiful here. A cynical veteran soldier who believes in a code of very strict discipline, the lovely young woman far from home, the scoundrel with a heart of gold, the technologically and socially resistant leader of an indigenous people. At what point does an actor look at a project like this as just a payday and nothing more? This film was made after Gene Hackman had won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1972’s The French Connection and his BAFTA and Golden Globes nominated work in 1974’s The Conversation. According to interviews at the time “Hackman has said that the failure of Scarecrow (1973) turned him off of art films due to the disappointment of working hard on a film that was critically acclaimed, but that tanked at the box office and failed to garner any awards. After this flop, Hackman mainly concentrated on acting for money, turning down such films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo`s Nest (1975) and Network (1976) for roles in films like March or Die (1977) and Lucky Lady (1975) that offered him fatter paychecks.”
Also the budget looks like it was all spent on the actors. The setting is simple desert. The whole production feels like a cheap TV movie. The attention to detail is not present. During the climactic battle scene the safety prop weapons are easily spotted as the bayonet blades and swords are not metal and incredibly flexible. They flop about quite obviously.
The climactic battle scene is like a bad copy of Zulu with Gene Hackman running about shouting “You men, cover the right flank!” and Terence Hill running about with a machine gun firing from the hip. It is laughable.
This film’s reported budget was $9 million, but it returned only $1 million domestically. That should say it all. Avoid this film at all costs.