98-“Return to Fort Benjamin”

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen, Writers: Robert E. Thompson, Herb Meadow (creator)

ANTHONY CARUSO … Gimp / Yellow Star, CHARLES AIDMAN … Lt. Graham, ROBERT J. WILKE as Maj. Blake (as Robert Wilke), HERBERT PATTERSON … Sgt. Kern, FRANK SENTRY as Dark Leaf’s Nephew, WHITE HORSE as Chief Dark Leaf (as Chief White Horse), STEWART EAST … Soldier, HAL NEEDHAM … Soldier (as Harold Needham)
A father ask that his son’s body have whatever honor is left to it.
I’ve seen him hounded to death With less dignity than cattle in a slaughter pen.

DARK LEAF’S NEPHEW
Mr. Paladin?

PALADIN
That’s right.

DARK LEAF’S NEPHEW
This is Chief Dark Leaf. I am his nephew.

How.

PALADIN
Chief.

DARK LEAF’S NEPHEW
Chief Dark Leaf’s son, Yellow Star, is going to be hanged for murder. You have connections with important men in the army. In Washington. This is your card. Or doesn’t it include us?

PALADIN
Well, what do you want with me?

DARK LEAF’S NEPHEW
He is an old man, Mr. Paladin. He lives in the ways of the past. All he’s asked is that yellow star’s body Be burned on a Sioux pyre.

PALADIN
And the authorities have refused this right?

DARK LEAF’S NEPHEW
Mr. Paladin, we are Indians. At Fort Benjamin, we don’t have rights.

PALADIN
I’ll do what I can. One thing. Your son has been tried and found guilty.
I can’t, and I won’t interfere with that.

CHIEF DARK LEAF
That he may die as chief.

EXT. ARMY FORT – DAY

28
00:02:02,054 –> 00:02:04,822
Up with the guard! Rider approaching!

29
00:02:21,557 –> 00:02:24,475
Hoskins, take this man’s horse.

PALADIN
Thank you, corporal.

SGT. KERN
Ten-hut! Pick it up, Injun! You stand at attention. No, not that way! I said at attention! You gonna pick that up, Injun? Or am I gonna break your back? Detail! Ten-hut! Detail!
Pick up that garbage. You’re all over the place like a spilt bowl of soup. Ten-hut! See, the trouble is, he just don’t learn very fast. And he ain’t got much time left.

PALADIN
Why, you stupid…

LT. GRAHAM
Sergeant Kern, what’s going on there?

PALADIN
He’s trying to beat a prisoner.

LT. GRAHAM
Oh, are you paladin? We’ve been rather expecting you.

SGT. KERN
I’ll settle with you, mister. I’ll find the time and the place, and I’ll settle.

PALADIN
All right, sergeant. Anytime. At your leisure or now.

LT. GRAHAM
Sergeant, take the prisoner back to the guardhouse, Sergeant.

SGT. KERN
Move, gimp!

YELLOW STAR
Tomorrow I have no fear. I no pick up garbage. I no spit to shine boot.

LT. GRAHAM
Take him away, colonel. Do be a little easier with him. You are paladin?

PALADIN
I am. That’s the prisoner, Yellow Star?

LT. GRAHAM
The gimp, that’s him.

PALADIN
Lieutenant, are all your prisoners treated With this astonishing degree of respect?

LT. GRAHAM
He killed an officer of the post. You should have seen the body. It was the worst moment
of my life. To see poor Pierson grinning at me. It was awful. Well, the major’s wild. Nothing but telegrams about you and your mission for the last three weeks. Shall we see it?

LT. GRAHAM
Sergeant Kern? He’s no worse than the rest here. Incompetents, derelicts, thieves, cowards. Impartial scraping of the bottom. Oh, yes, I’m part of that scraping, too.
You’re from San Francisco, I understand. This place along the fringe of the Barbary Coast, The Gables. It has an air about it. Even the grill work in the front puts me in mind of a certain place in Paris, where I squandered the most delicious part of my youth.

PALADIN
Montmartre. What was the evidence against yellow star?

MAJOR BLAKE
Hurry it up, captain. I want this finished before sundown.

LT. GRAHAM
Major. Not a bad sort, really.

PALADIN
Lieutenant, I had asked you a question.

LT. GRAHAM
Oh, the evidence. Well, the gimp simply confessed, that’s all.

PALADIN
And who were the witnesses?

LT. GRAHAM
Sergeant Kern…And myself, of course. I’d just gotten back from Wellburg. Supply duty.
Simply stumbled onto gimp running off and what was left of Pierson.

PALADIN
Then you didn’t actually see it.

LT. GRAHAM
Everyone knows that the gimp did it.

PALADIN
I don’t know it… Yet, Lieutenant.

EXT. HANGMAN’S GALLOWS -DAY

MAJOR BLAKE
As I said before, Mr. Paladin, that file is in my desk. Nothing is going to be changed.

PALADIN
You won’t surrender yellow star’s body?

MAJOR BLAKE
That should have been clear before you wasted your time coming here.

PALADIN
Major, sooner or later, no matter what the degree of a man’s guilt, it has to be washed away by something. Love, courage, death. I’ve come to you with what seemed to me to be a humane, uncomplicated request. That the body of yellow star be afforded whatever honor remained for it. That request came from a father for his last son. It was made, not in anger, not in bitterness. But now I’ve seen your prisoner. Now I’ve seen a man being hounded to death with less dignity than cattle in a slaughterhouse. And I wanna know why.

MAJOR BLAKE
The prisoner will be executed tomorrow as scheduled, his body consigned to the lime pit.

PALADIN
The lime pit?

MAJOR BLAKE
Army sanitation code. Section four, paragraph two. “post commander shall be responsible
“for the disposal of all animal refuse…

BLAKE/PALADIN (IN UNISON)
Or any other matter subject to decay.”

MAJOR BLAKE
Mr. Paladin? What you’re thinking is wrong. I had a belief. But your Sioux friends taught me different. This is all the honor in a Sioux pyre. I walked into a Sioux war camp under a flag of truce. I lasted through this and all the rest they could do to me. Oh, I whined. I begged. Then I whimpered out everything I knew. There is honor among the Sioux, Mr. Paladin. They only allow death to those they respect.

PALADIN
I wanna talk to Yellow Star.

MAJOR BLAKE
By all means, Talk to him. Take a close look at the thing you wanna honor. Smell it.

PALADIN
Well, sergeant? Is this the time or the place?

YELLOW STAR
Whiskey. You bring a whiskey? You want me?

PALADIN
Your father, Dark Leaf, sent me.

YELLOW STAR
He knows I take coup.

PALADIN
A scalp taken from a foe you faced in battle, Not from a drunk man you cut down from behind.

YELLOW STAR
No. I make him face me! My mark is put to what happen. I kill him.

PALADIN
Where did you get the saber you used? Or did you hide the saber? Where’s the scalp?

YELLOW STAR
I kill him. I take coup.

PALADIN
I don’t think I believe you. You didn’t kill anyone. They’re gonna hang you tomorrow.
Has any of that sunk in to you?

YELLOW STAR
Tomorrow they call me gimp Indian no more. Soldiers, they say, “look, give him spoon
of whiskey. Make him beg. Beg, gimp! Beg!” I want whiskey. Gimp, Beg spoon whiskey.
Whiskey. Tomorrow no more! I son to Dark Leaf. Son of chief. I went first in battle.
I take greatest buffalo. I go to council. All others wait for me to speak. I speak evil.
I speak surrender. I give myself to your world. Got a medal for bravery. When I’m scout.
Tomorrow I…I die with honor.

PALADIN
There’s more honor in cleaning a stable properly Than in dying uselessly like this, Yellow Star.

YELLOW STAR
No! I no Yellow Star! I still gimp Indian till tomorrow! Then Yellow Star once more!

PALADIN
You wanna die?

YELLOW STAR
Tomorrow they will see brave die.

PALADIN
Will they? You know what they’re gonna do to you tomorrow? After they hang you, they’re
gonna cut your body down And that major’s gonna have it dragged over to the lime pit and shoveled in like so much slop. Do you understand that? Shoveled into a lime pit.

YELLOW STAR
I must die as brave. I take coup. I must die as brave. I take coup! I must die as brave!

EXT. LIME PIT -DAY

PALADIN
Lieutenant, I found out a number of things about you in the last half hour. Including the fact that the night Pierson was killed, you were staggering drunk.

LT. GRAHAM
Who was it that said that about my staggering?

PALADIN
Never mind about the staggering. How well could you see that night?

LT. GRAHAM
Enough to see what I saw.

PALADIN
Pierson smiling?

LT. GRAHAM
I’ll never forget that. It was the first time anyone ever saw Pierson smile. And the last.

PALADIN
I’m gonna get the truth out of you, if I have to slap you unconscious and then pour water on you and start all over again. Now, what did you see that night?

LT. GRAHAM
Well, I was drunk. But I saw that filthy savage, and I saw Pierson. I’ll never forget that.

PALADIN
You saw Pierson smiling? Lieutenant, have you ever seen a scalped man?

LT. GRAHAM

No.

PALADIN
Well, their expression is not smiling. It’s sad. And a little bit sleepy.

LT. GRAHAM
What of it?

PALADIN
You said you saw Pierson smiling. That means he hadn’t been scalped when you saw him. I don’t believe gimp killed him.

LT. GRAHAM
Let them hang him. It’ll be the end of a miserable life for him. Let it go.

PALADIN
We’ll just hang gimp and then all sit down to tea? That right?

LT. GRAHAM
Look. Another drunk charge, And I’m out of the army altogether. The major thinks I’ve stopped drinking. If Kern or you…

PALADIN
Kern? Was Kern there? Did he see you drunk and threaten to expose you? That why you pick up garbage rather than face him down?

LT. GRAHAM
Don’t.

PALADIN
Did Kern kill Pierson?

LT. GRAHAM
Please. Watch out for Kern. He’s a very dangerous man.

INT. MAJOR BLAKE’S OFFICE -DAY

MAJOR BLAKE
I’ll remind you, Mr. Paladin, You are a guest of the United States army and thank you to cease interference with my men and my affairs.

PALADIN
I’ve talked to graham.

MAJOR BLAKE
You think I don’t know he’s drinking again? He can use another chance to stop himself, too, Mr. Paladin. We can all use another chance.

PALADIN
He’s concealing evidence.

MAJOR BLAKE
If you think I’m altering the records of the court-martial of that Indian to brand an officer
a drunk and a perjurer, you’re making a grave mistake.

PALADIN
Major, has it occurred to you that lieutenant Pierson, another of your trusted officers, could have been killed by one of your men and the gimp blamed for it?

MAJOR BLAKE
It was considered and rejected because the beast himself says he’s guilty.

PALADIN
You know that poor, demoralized, deluded Indian Is not responsible for what he says.
He thinks it’s an honor to die.

MAJOR BLAKE
The case is closed, Mr. Paladin.

PALADIN
Major, I’m gonna wire Washington and ask for a review of this case.

MAJOR BLAKE
Request denied. You’ll have to ride out to a civilian telegraph to send that wire.

PALADIN
Major. Don’t hang that man before I get back.

EXT. FORT STOCKADE – NIGHT

LT. GRAHAM
Gimp.

YELLOW STAR
No. No lime pit. I must die as brave.

LT. GRAHAM
Shut up. I’m not here to take you to be hung. I’m here to set you free. I have a horse for you outside the gate. You understand? Whiskey. See? Plenty. Go.

EXT. FORT GATE – NEXT MORNING -DAY

PRIVATE
Up with the guard!

PALADIN
They haven’t hung him yet?

PRIVATE
Hung him? They’d have to catch him first. He snuck out last night.

PALADIN
He escaped?

PRIVATE
They’re out looking for him. Rode north.

EXT. AT THE RIVER -DAY

PALADIN
You finally got what you wanted. Now you can have him hunted down and slaughtered. You afraid the appeal would be granted And you wouldn’t get your pound of flesh?

SGT. KERN
Major! Some hoofprints along the bank lead off into the woods.

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00:19:18,657 –> 00:19:20,723
Mount! You stay out of this.

288
00:19:20,725 –> 00:19:23,260
You tell him! Sergeant Kern.

M
Take this man back to the fort And do it any way you have to.

SGT. KERN
Hold it, Mr. Paladin. We ain’t going back to no fort. Guess maybe I found the right time and place.

PALADIN
Sergeant. Possibly you have. Would you like me to beg? Or would you prefer me drunk?
Like an officer with a record of fighting with enlisted men.

SGT. KERN
You doped that one out, huh? Old Pierson picked hisself the wrong man to shove around.

PALADIN
You like working with a saber, sergeant? Worked out just right, didn’t it? You killed Pierson, Then you chased graham away. Then you gave the saber to gimp and let him take the coup. That right?

SGT. KERN
Onlyest way that Indian was ever gonna get his coup And visit his ancestors.

Kern cocks his rifle. Paladin shoots him with his derringer. Kern falls into the river. Paladin then walks a ways down the river to discover hoof prints of a horse.

EXT. YELLOW STAR’S CAMP – DAY

YELLOW STAR
What do you want? Drink whiskey? You, me share. Huh?

PALADIN
No. I want you to go back to the fort with me. There’ll be a new trial.

YELLOW STAR
No. I’m free.

PALADIN
You’ll never be free until you prove you didn’t kill Pierson. And you’ll have to go back to the fort to do that.

YELLOW STAR
No. I kill him. Lieutenant saber. I polished good. Plenty time. I kill him!

PALADIN
What about sergeant Kern?

YELLOW STAR
Huh?

PALADIN
Now, sergeant Kern killed Pierson with that saber. Didn’t he, yellow star?

YELLOW STAR
No.

PALADIN
Yes, he did. And you saw it all, didn’t you, lieutenant? But you were so frightened of Kern,
You’d let a man die.

LT. GRAHAM
You don’t believe that.
You know what he is!
He’s a dirty, drunken Indian!

PALADIN
There’s your story, major.
What are you gonna do about it?

LT. GRAHAM
Maybe the rest of you are afraid, but I’ll take him in! He’s filth! Can’t you see that? He belongs in the lime pits!

YELLOW STAR
Must die as brave.

PALADIN
All right, major. You take your turn. Go ahead. Get your dirty penny’s worth of vengeance.

MAJOR BLAKE
It’s all over, Mr. Paladin. You may take the body. Corporal, take charge of lieutenant graham.

PALADIN
You degraded a man into something worse than an animal. Honoring his body won’t change that now.

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