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MOVIE SCRIPT: How Do We Get Carter To Barsoom?

David Bruce Bozarth

One of the problems with a movie version of A PRINCESS OF MARS is how does John Carter transport from Earth to Mars? Of equal importance is how to create a movie that is true to the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs in the face of scientific evidence accumulating since the 1960s? One answer is provided in this little script snippet which also suggests a possible answer to the second question.

Following up on the question of how we might get Carter to Barsoom and avoid the astral body device used by ERB. I'll expand my recommendation that the plot remain as true to ERB as possible, yet revamped sufficiently for today's audiences. The following is a short script which contains my best suggestions, which I wrote in April of 2002 and shared with those who had need of outside input.

Now that it looks like we might actually have a Barsoom movie I'll share my thoughts now so we might have a little fun observing how the paid scriptwriter and this hobby scriptwriter viewed the same problem. In my opinion A PRINCESS OF MARS will not work without the CONFEDERATE OFFICER, SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN VALUES, and PERIOD PIECE format--and the exciting opening in ARIZONA.


A Possible Script

David Bruce Bozarth

OPEN dark screen

SCENE: Roll some credits BUT NOT TITLE. Echoing footsteps heard. Flickering lantern at end of black tunnel approaches camera. Reflected light reveals mine timbers and faces of Carter and Powell. Both men dressed in dusty and sweat stained Confederate uniforms. They near tunnel's end, camera pans to rich gold vein reflecting light Carter leads Powell, motioning the other to approach.

CARTER: We did it, Captain Powell.

Powell runs hand over gold, shock becoming laughter

POWELL: (bowing) Captain Carter, late of the Virginia Regulars, we're rich!

CARTER: Now all we have to do is protect the claim and get a crew to work the mine.

Powell pries a handful of large nuggets from the wall.

POWELL: You're the better shot, so I'll ride to Tucson to stake the claim, get an assay and bring back eight men and supplies.

CARTER: Make sure half of those men are good shots because that vein is a million dollars or more.

SCENE Morning, outside mine near dusty tent. Powell finishing saddle. Carter holds bridle as Powell mounts, then passes up a rifle.

CARTER: Watch for Indians. See you in a week.

Powell salutes, rides down slope. Camera goes wide revealing the desolate and rugged Arizona terrain. Roll TITLE, Cast, Director and Producer Credits and any others as desired. Carter pours coffee from battered pot and walks to ledge. He looks for Powell, now a tiny speck. Sipping coffee, a bright reflection down below freezes Carter. Carter sees a half dozen tiny horsemen, still distant from Powell, change course to follow Powell. Carter checks his Colt Revolvers (NAVY COLTS) and rifle, then mounts his horse.

SCENE rapid cuts between Powell racing away from Indians, Indians chasing Powell, Carter racing to close the gap.

SCENE late afternoon. Powell's horse goes lame. Powell thrown. Indians arrive. Powell shot with arrow, disarmed, and dragged between two horses into side canyon

SCENE late afternoon. Carter finds Powell's horse. Removes its saddle while studying tracks. Shoving one of his Colts into his waistband, the other in hand, he rides with more caution into the side canyon.

SCENE night. Indian camp. Powell's torture by Indians (we don't see it, we hear it as Carter rides up). Cut to Carter's grim face. Cut to Carter spurring horse.

SCENE night. Indian camp. Carter rides into camp. Fires revolver. The Indian by Powell falls. Carter fires again. Another Indian crawls away, wounded. The Indians scatter for cover and weapons. Carter yanks Powell, stretched over a boulder, across the saddle and races off, firing at the Indians firing at him.

SCENE night. High country. Horse weary. Carter on foot leading horse. Powell grievously wounded, sits in saddle, reeling.

POWELL: (Pained) Damn fool stunt, Jack. Now they'll kill us both.

CARTER: I couldn't leave you, James. Not after all we survived during the war.

POWELL: Do me a favor?

Powell begins to fall. Carter lifts Powell to ground, holding his friend.

CARTER: James?

Powell opens eyes, coughs blood, attempts smile.

POWELL: John...(cough)...Spend my share of the gold on...

Powell dies, wish unstated. Carter hears small rock slide on back trail.

CARTER: (whispering) Good bye, Captain Powell. I'll come back for you.

Carter takes weapons, canteen and saddlebags from horse and starts hard climb up canyon wall.

SCENE: moonlight. Side of canyon. Cave entrance in background. Hard-breathing Carter sees Indians coming up the slope. Enters cave.

SCENE: cave interior. slight glow beyond turn in tunnel. Carter's eyes water. He smells something pungent. Investigates.

SCENE: cave interior, beyond turn in tunnel. Blind Shaman seated beside small fire with rattle in hand. At Carter's footstep the rattle begins a beat.

SHAMAN: None come here but those who seek the Spirit Walk. Sit.

Carter hesitates, looking back to the cave's entrance.

SHAMAN: Those without will not enter. They are not yet ready to walk with the Spirits. Sit. (more commanding voice).

Carter sits across from Shaman, fire between.

CARTER: I am not Apache. What is this Spirit Walk?

SHAMAN: You are a warrior. Your heart brought you here to walk between this world and the World Beside Us But Can Never Be Seen.

CARTER: You speak riddles.

SHAMAN: Only men of great strength and will can Walk Between the Worlds.

CARTER: I am white man. I do not believe in your Great Spirit.

Rattle continues beat. Mood music, eerie American Indian flute with somber melody and low strings, building.

SHAMAN: You are a man, but one unlike others. How old are you?

Carter looks surprised and astonished...and suspicious

CARTER: I do not know.

SHAMAN: How many years have you looked as you do now?

CARTER: (again startled) More than a hundred. I do not know how old I am. I have no memory of my mother or father. I fought with George Washington at Valley Forge. I fought with Nelson at Trafalgar. I fought with Wellington at Waterloo. I--

SHAMAN: You are the warrior who never ages. I knew you were coming. You are destined to Spirit Walk.

CARTER: Where? Where do I walk?

Shaman tosses something in fire. Puff of smoke. Music crescendos. As smoke clears Carter is seated in same position, naked except for Indian loincloth. Shaman and cave appear to shimmer, only Carter looks solid.

SHAMAN: You may take nothing of this world with you to the next, except your heart and strength, and mind. Go walk with the Spirits.

Shaman and light begin to fade. Confused, Carter rises and walks to the turn in the tunnel. Pausing to look back, he sees nothing but barren rock.

SCENE: Barsoom, cave, daylight.

Carter is on Barsoom. Camera pans the desolate area which slopes away, a dead sea bottom.