Film

Synopsis of
THE LAST WESTERN

Manassas Junction, Virginia—1862. In the heat of battle, Col. Evelyn Tyner, a hard-bitten man of impeccable moral stature, makes a mistake that sends him to the bowels of Federal Prison for the next ten years. Beaten but not defeated, he emerges from prison to find a scurrilous group of “hangers on” waiting for him. Men he had all but forgotten. With his unit in place, he—surprisingly—finds himself in the servitude of the general who sent him down.

It’s a new west in Virginia City, Nevada. All the rules have changed. Will these two men, who were schooled at West Point together and later fought back-to-back for the Union forces, lay the past to rest and ride the Iron Horse to wealth and fame as it steams its way toward a new age? Or is the steam of the Iron Horse only a cloud of deception hiding crimes so heinous that a man possessed of true character and moral fiber can no longer choke back the bile of emerging progress? Of course justice must be served—but at what cost?


AUTHOR’S NOTE: the texture of this piece is intended to reflect the era: muddy streets, cloudy skies, unkempt and disheveled towns and people, and lots of locomotive soot.

This powerful work is dedicated to the memory of Sam Peckinpah. It is something of a cross between MCabe and Mrs. Miller and The Unforgiven. Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country also lurks in the background. Strong char-acterizations, sweeping vistas, contemporary moral and ethical dilemmas stirred into a tale of greed, retribution, honor, courage and rebirth mark this work as a return to the epic filmmaking of John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, David Lean and George Stephens.

The Last Western
by Bernard Selling
and Karl Grey

EXT. BATTLEFIELD—MANASSAS, VIRGINIA—1865—NIGHT

Cannons boom through the night and the smell of gunpowder and death blanket

the Union Army encampment. Wet, black, fog hangs in the air.

On the other side of the river, Lee’s army writhes like an angry snake.

INT. TENT—NIGHT

By the light of his tent’s kerosene lantern, EVELYN TYNER, Col., Grand Army ofthe Republic, plots a return to battle. Dark-eyed, intense, the burly, full-bearded Tyner pays no attention to his injured arm. Blood oozes through the once-white bandage.

TYNER

Our cavalry’s got ta get ta them rebs ‘fore they cin flank our main force. It’ll happen here—at Purgatory Hill just above them railroad tracks. Questions? (pointing; off their silence) Alright, get back to your units. A young lieutenant hesitates, clearly scared by what he has already seen and will see.

TYNER

You understand what you are to do, Lt.?!! Now do it.

The Lt. cannot even open his mouth.

Col. Tyner raises himself to his full height and swats his young officer across the face with his glove. The other officers, including the surgeon, C.J. “Doc” Rivers are aghast.

Standing in the tent opening, Gen. Zachariah Sheridan, brother of the great union general—Phil Sheridan—witnesses the young Lt’s dressing down..

SHERIDAN

Awright, gentlemen. Back to your units. (the other officers hurry out) Col., you are a disgrace to the uniform...

TYNER

Got no patience with cowards.

SHERIDAN

You’re confined to quarters. Guards!!! (two guards enter; salute) This man is under house arrest until further orders.

He starts to rip the epaulets off Tyner’s shoulders. Tyner backs away.

SHERIDAN

I’ll see to it that you never again wear the epaulets of an officer of the U.S.Army, Tyner. (grinning) Fact is, I got a lot more in store for ya.

CUT TO:
EXT. BATTLEFIELD—NIGHT

The young Lt., and his unit ride up to the front. Withering gun fire cuts their horses out from under them. Cannon balls explode all around them.

CUT TO:
INT. COL. TENT—NIGHT

Tyner can hear the screams of his men as cannon shot pours into them near the river. He is at wits end. He looks toward the back of his tent.

EXT. TENT—NIGHT

He lifts the flap at the rear of the tent and quietly escapes making his way to the corral. He gets himself a horse, mounts it, then follows the railroad line leading to the battle.

CUT TO:
EXT. PURGATORY HILL—FIRST LIGHT OF DAWN

The rebs are on the move as Tyner peeks though the bushes. The battered flag of his unit, 3RD MICHIGAN CAVALRY, still flies. His men surrounded, Tyner slips away.

CUT TO:
EXT. UNION ARMY CAMPGROUND—DAWN

Returning to his camp, he gathers a half-dozen broken down old soldiers together.

EXT. RAILROAD SIDING—DAWN

A locomotive, tender and two freight cars sit on a siding, idling. Tyner appears. He and his men overpower the crew and disguise themselves as Confederates. They board the loco-motive and chug toward the front.

EXT. RAILROAD TRACK—SUNRISE

They pass though the rebel lines moving slowly, seeming unconcerned, arriving at a siding near purgatory hill.

CUT TO:
EXT. HIGH GROUND OVERLOOKING THE RIVER—EARLY MORNING

The men in his unit fire sporadically. The scared Lt. urges them on, despite having lost an eye. His arm is badly damaged at the elbow.

Tyner appears carrying a flag of truce. He instructs the Lt.’s men to give the ap-pearance of surrendering. Together, they amble past the taunting rebs, board the train and again pass through the Confederate lines.

CUT TO:
EXT. RAILROAD TRACK—MORNING

They arrive safely at the Union Army Encampment. All the men in camp cheer their arrival. They come to a halt.

INT. BOX CAR—MORNING

Tyner helps unload the wounded. A wounded man puts out his hand.

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