It's certainly not the kind of stellar production that'll inspire hardcore cinema fanatics to sign up for film school, but it manages to be focused and effective.Right after woefully witnessing Gene Hackman sleepwalk in the atrocious 1977 The Domino Principle, it's a pleasure to report he fares much better in March Or Die that came out the same year. He plays Major William Sherman Foster of the French Foreign Legion in 1918 who's been ordered to provide legionnaires for labor and protection for an archeologist seeking valuable artifacts buried deep down in a desert section of Morocco. Foster isn't particularly thrilled over the mission, for he views it as a potential waste of a considerable amount of his men's lives at the hands of territorial Arabs who've been successful at slaughtering legionnaires encroaching on their land; but his superior officer goes along with the archeologist reasoning that there will be enough riches found to pay for the whole war. The major has been stationed in Morocco for twelve years after being kicked out of the United States Army for telling the brass exactly what he thought of them; he could've easily been a general but stuck to his morals and has been paying the price ever since. And Hackman's performance is admirably measured and contemplative: he gives us a military officer who's learned to keep his opposing viewpoints mostly at bay, and to instruct in his men the discipline to unquestionably stick to orders not just for the good of the mission but so as not to wind up an outcast of their country like himself -- when he tells them there are no heroes in war, just survivors, he's essentially telling them not to get too big for their britches. (This is probably the only war film where an officer doesn't want his recruits not to follow his psychological path.) But effortlessly stealing the proceedings right from under the solid Hackman is Terence Hill, a dashingly handsome young actor who plays a cat burglar with the athletic grace of a first-rate circus performer who can leap up and down high places who's forced into the service as punishment for his illegality. One of the chief pleasures is watching the character progress into a dedicated fighter unflinchingly loyal to his comrades. The story itself isn't much of a grabber, mind you, and some of the dialogue sounds like it came right out of a can, but it moves forth steadily enough and convincingly etches a specific time and place without weighing itself down with dense period detail. Director Dick Richards's work starts out kind of clunky (the compositions just don't breathe) but steadily improves throughout, culminating in a well-staged battle sequence that's simply splendid where the spatial logistics are coherently choreographed. While lacking the sweeping beauty and scope of John Milius's desert epic The Wind and the Lion, March or Die is minus panache but possessive of enough plusses to warrant a recommendation for an undemanding Saturday-afternoon viewing.It was quite the box-office bomb, alas: with a budget of $9,000,000 it wound up grossing just 1/9th of that.