The Classic TV Archive - TV Western series
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"Nightmare At Fort Killman"
NBC Broadcast - 8 March 1967
Universal Television, a Division of Universal City Studios, Inc.
Executive Producer Frank Price
Produced by Cy Chermak
Written by John & Ward Hawkins
Directed by Abner Biberman
(shown on the ride-in)
Charles Bickford as John Grainger
Doug McClure as Trampas
Clu Gulager as Emmett Ryker (not in this episode)
Don Quine as Stacey Grainger
Sara Lane as Elizabeth Grainger (not in this episode)
James Drury as The Virginian (not in this episode)
James Daly [Sergeant Joe Trapp]
Les Crane [Captain MacDowell]
Full ending credits:
Johnny Seven as Tom Beale
Don Mitchell . . . Private Martin
Wally Strauss . . . Company Clerk
Harry Harvey, Sr. . . . Station Master
Dee Cooper . . . 1st Non. Com.
Theme by Percy Faith
Director of Photography William Margulies, A.S.C.
Art Director . . . George Patrick
Film Editor . . . Michael R. McAdam, A.C.E.
Unit Manager . . . Abby Singer
Assistant Director . . . Henry Kline
Set Decorators . . . John McCarthy and Hal Overell
Sound . . . Ed Somers
Color Coordinator . . . Robert Brower
Editorial Supervisor . . . Richard Belding
Musical Supervision . . . Stanley Wilson
Costume Supervisor . . . Vincent Dee
Makeup . . . Bud Westmore
Hair Stylist . . . Larry Germain
The Title "The Virginian" by permission of EMKA, LTD.
Series regular characters appearing in this episode:
Featuring Stacey Grainger
with brief appearance by John Grainger and Trampas
Stacey Grainger is headed to San Francisco with some papers for
the Virginian but becomes entangled in a terrifying web of deceit when he
is shanghaied by a soon-to-be-civilian army man who claims Stacey to be the
reluctant recruit Willard J. Thorne. (bj)
Trampas drops off Stacey at the train depot in Medicine Bow. Stacey is
headed for San Francisco to deliver some important papers to the Virginian.
He has a long wait before the train leaves and a cowboy overhears him
buying his ticket. That night, the cowboy bushwhacks him as he enters
the depot. We next see the cowboy, wearing a Cavalry uniform, driving a
buckboard into Fort Killman. We learn that cowboy/soldier's name is
Sgt. Tom Beale. He is two days late and is due to be discharged after
this final mission of bringing in a new recruit. His two superior officers,
Sgt. Trapp and Capt. MacDowell (whom he derisively calls "the Boy Wonder"),
are off on a night patrol. To his dismay, the company clerk tells him that
his discharge papers have not yet arrived from Washington and the next mail
won't arrive for two days. "Willard J. Thorne," reads the company clerk
off the enlistment papers handed to him by Beale, "Where is he?" Beale
leads him outside, where he shows him an unconscious Stacey in the back of
the buckboard. Apparently, Beale is going to try to pass off Stacey as
recruit Willard J. Thorne.
The next day Sgt. Trapp and Capt. MacDowell ride into the fort. Trapp
asks Beale where he's been and Beale says, "I've had a little trouble."
Trapp is unsympathetic and reminds him that he covered him for his
absence the past two days. He tells Beale that until his discharge papers
arrive, he will still be a soldier. Beale asks if he can take charge of
the new "recruit" (Stacey) in the meantime and Trapp agrees. We next
see Stacey wearing a uniform and being dunked in a water trough to wake
him up. Capt. MacDowell calls Sgt. Trapp into his office to ask about
some purchasing irregularities. Trapp asks for permission to "speak frankly"
and subtly hints at blackmail as he reminds the Captain that he won't tell
anyone that the Captain had been frightened by some Indians the previous
night while they were on their maneuvers. Capt. MacDowell is the son of
a famed general and, in Sgt. Trapp's view, had only achieved his current
position due to nepotism. Capt. MacDowell thinks it over and lets him go.
Stacey wakes up in the guardhouse, where he is sharing a cell with Pvt.
Billy Martin, who tells him he looks like he "tried to drink the whole
territory of Wyoming dry." Stacey at first thinks he's in jail, but Martin
tells him he's in the guardhouse at Fort Killman. Sgt. Trapp and Sgt.
Beale enter. Trapp is very much the drill sergeant as he rouses Stacey
out of bed and refuses to listen to him when he says there's been some
kind of mistake and he's not a soldier. Trapp says, "I have some
enlistment papers in the orderly room that says you are!" "Then they're
forgeries!" says Stacey. Trapp asks him if he doesn't remember signing
his name and Stacey says that he last remembers waiting to catch a
train west. "And you don't remember getting drunk, I suppose. Do you
deny you were?" asks Trapp. Stacey pauses and says, "I guess I can't."
Stacey asks if he can see the enlistment papers. Sgt. Trapp tells him
that if he makes reveille tomorrow morning, Sgt. Beale will give him
permission to see him after mess. "Why not sooner?" asks Stacey.
"Because I said tomorrow!" answers Trapp. Trapp exits and Beale says,
"All right, Thorne, let's go!" "Thorne? My name isn't Thorne," says
Stacey. Then he realizes what happened; "That's what this is all about.
I'm here for somebody else!...My name is Stacey Grainger. I'm from the
Shiloh Ranch. I didn't enlist in this or any other army. Don't you
see I don't belong here?" He attempts to leave the cell so he can tell
this to Sgt. Trapp, but Beale, who knows the truth, won't let him leave.
He says he'll have to wait until after reveille the next morning as
Trapp had ordered. Stacey attempts to go anyway and Beale punches him
in the stomach. "Pity how some men drink more than they can handle,"
says Beale to Stacey, who is still groggy from the night before.
Beale orders Stacey to help Martin saw some logs. Stacey at first refuses,
but Martin tells him that he'd better cooperate or else he'll be sent
to the guardhouse. When Stacey suggests that he might be better off in
the guardhouse, Martin tells him, "Out here he's gotta follow regulations.
He's gotta go by the book. You let him get you in there, you belong to
him. He owns you. He can fix it so you never get out." A reluctant
Stacey proceeds to start sawing logs under the hot sun into the evening,
when he finally collapses due to exhaustion and his weakened condition.
Meanwhile, back at Shiloh, the Medicine Bow station master drops by with
Stacey's suitcase. He tells John Grainger that Stacey left the suitcase
at the depot, but he did see him hop on the train at the last minute.
John agrees that it's odd that he hasn't wired for it, especially since
it still contains the papers he was to deliver to the Virginian in San
Francisco. He tells the station master to wire ahead to Green River to
get someone to verify that Stacey is on the train.
Back at Fort Killman, an exhausted Stacey misses reveille, so Sgt. Trapp
refuses to let him look at the enlistment papers as they had agreed.
Stacey tries to tell Trapp that he is not Willard Thorne but Stacey
Grainger, but Trapp doesn't believe him. Trapp tells him, "Any man who's
spent any length of time in the service has come across a dozen like you:
bottle fighters; cowhands down on their luck; kids who listen to the
sweet promises of some recruiting sergeant, reach for the enlistment pay
and sign their name. Then they wake up in the middle of nowhere and
figure they've made a mistake. Some pretend they're sick. Some pretend
they're too stupid to obey an order and some of them come up with a new
wrinkle like this one." Stacey demands to see the commanding officer,
but Trapp refuses to let him, saying he can only do that if he admits
he's a soldier and Trapp gives him permission. "And if I say I'm not?"
asks Stacey. "Then you are impersonating a trooper," says Trapp,
"You're on this post without authorization. I'm gonna throw you in
the guardhouse for three weeks. Then I'm gonna bring charges and you
can spend about a year in Federal Prison." "You win either way, don't
you?" says Stacey. "Lesson number one!" replies Trapp, holding up his
index finger. "All right, I'm a soldier," says Stacey, "and as a
soldier I demand to talk to the commanding officer of the post."
"I guess you're ready for lesson number two," answers Trapp.
Trapp orders Stacey to stand at attention until further notice and tells
the guard to shoot him if he moves. Trapp takes Beale into the office
for a private discussion. He tells Beale he knows what happened.
Beale was supposed to bring back recruit Willard J. Thorne, but somehow
lost him and shanghaied Stacey Grainger in his place. Beale figured his
discharge papers would be waiting for him when he got back and would be
long gone by the time Stacey came to. After first denying it, Beale
admits that Thorne had had second thoughts and gave him a $500 bribe not
to take him. Beale offers Trapp the money, but Trapp won't take it.
He also won't turn him in because he's been carrying him on the duty
roster for two days while he's been out "kidnapping civilians." Their
only solution is to continue on with the charade. "The first thing
we've got to do is shut Mr. Stacey Grainger up," says Trapp. He tells
Beale to try to provoke Stacey into hitting him so they can send him
to the guardhouse.
At Shiloh, John Grainger has received an answer to his telegram saying
that Stacey wasn't on the train in Green River. Trampas recalls that
the station master saw him get on the train without his suitcase.
John says that means he must have gotten off somewhere before Green
River. "Let's go into Medicine Bow," says John to Trampas.
Meanwhile at Fort Killman, Stacey is still standing at attention
underneath the blazing sun when he sees Capt. MacDowell enter the
officers' quarters. He bolts from his position, runs into the officers'
quarters and blurts out that he's really Stacey Grainger and doesn't
belong here. Sgt. Trapp tries to order him outside, but Capt. MacDowell
asks what this is all about. He agrees to hear Stacey's story, but
Trapp reminds the Captain that his father, the General, wouldn't have
handled things this way. MacDowell asks Trapp if he intends to
eventually allow Stacey to speak to him and Trapp says he will do
so "when he learns to do what he's told without talking back."
"All right, Sergeant. Carry on," says the Captain, who then exits.
Stacey vows to Trapp that as soon as he proves who he really is,
they'll "have a different conversation." Afterwards, Trapp admonishes
Beale for not keeping closer tabs on Stacey and reiterating that he
wants him in the guardhouse. Capt. MacDowell calls Trapp into his
office and tells him not to "try anything like that on me again."
He tells him that he let him get away with it this time because he
didn't want him "to look foolish out there." "I'm still in command
here," says the Captain, "and I'll listen to any man in my command
who wants to talk with me." He also tells Trapp that in the future,
if they have anything to discuss, to leave his father out of it.
Meanwhile, Beale has taken Stacey back to do more hard labor with Pvt. Martin.
Back in Medicine Bow, John is trying to retrace Stacey's steps with
the aid of the station master, who finally admits that he couldn't
be absolutely positive it was Stacey he saw getting on the train.
Trampas, who has also been investigating, finds footprints and tracks
of a buckboard. Two of the footprints were from new boots, like
Stacey was wearing, and the others were "square-toed flat heel" like
At the fort, Beale is running Stacey ragged once again. Stacey
finally gets fed up with his treatment and takes a punch at Sgt.
Beale after Beale dumps him out of bed for reveille only a minute
or so after he bedded down for the night. "All right, Thorne. Now
you're really mine!" hisses Beale. Stacey is returned to the
guardhouse where he is once again put in a cell with Pvt. Martin.
He tells Martin his story of really being a civilian who was shanghaied
into the army. Martin is skeptical, but tells him, "You might make
it work. Its just that crazy! Just stick to it. That's what you
have to do." Stacey asks Martin why he's in the guardhouse and Martin
says that Sgt. Trapp didn't like the way he made his bunk and sent him
there to show "who's boss." That was several weeks ago, and out of
principle, he stubbornly refuses to go back and re-make the bed
because he "had made it up just fine the first time." Pvt. Martin
adds that he'll "beat them" because he's right and he'll just "keep
coming back and coming back and coming back."
The next day Sgt. Beale works Stacey and Pvt. Martin to exhaustion
again, this time by hauling rocks. That evening Sgt. Trapp tells
Beale that his discharge papers came in the mail today. Beale is
excited and all set to leave, but Trapp tells him that that leaves
him with a problem--what to do with Stacey Grainger. A telegram
had also arrived in the day's mail addressed to the commander of
the post from John Grainger inquiring about Stacey's whereabouts.
Beale offers Trapp more money if he would just hide the telegram
for a few days while he gets away, but Trapp says he can't do it
and tells Beale he's under arrest. Beale grabs a knife, but in the
ensuing struggle, Trapp is able to turn the knife on Beale and kill him.
Later that evening Sgt. Trapp enters the cell in the guardhouse.
Under the pretense of checking on the prisoners, he "conveniently"
leaves the cell door unlocked. Stacey is wary that this might be a
ruse, but decides to take his chances. Pvt. Martin wants to go with
him, but Stacey convinces him to stay because he's a real soldier
and that would be desertion. We next see Stacey entering the livery
stable where, sure enough, Sgt. Trapp has planted the dead body of
Sgt. Beale. Pvt. Martin has changed his mind, however, and rushes
into the stable, mounts a horse and tries to ride away. Thinking
he's Stacey, Sgt. Trapp shoots him. Stacey, meanwhile, frees all
the other horses in the stable and rides sidesaddle on one of them
to escape detection as the horses are running out of the fort.
Under cover of darkness, he's able to ride all the way back to
Shiloh, where he surprises John in the study.
The next day the Cavalry, led by Capt. MacDowell and Sgt. Trapp,
rides into Shiloh to arrest Stacey for the murder of Sgt. Beale.
When John objects, Capt. MacDowell says he has the authority to
hold him at the fort because Sgt. Beale was murdered in the line
of duty and it hasn't yet been proven that Stacey is who he says
he is, namely a civilian. John reluctantly tells Stacey to return
to the fort, but assures him that he will prove him innocent.
Back at the guardhouse at Fort Killman, Sgt. Trapp visits Stacey in
his cell and informs him that Pvt. Martin died in the escape attempt.
He plans to lie about the circumstances of the escape and say it was
Beale that left the cell door open and that Stacey killed him during
the escape. However, now that Martin has died, he might be "persuaded"
to say that it was Martin who did the killing provided Stacey stays
quiet about everything else that has happened. "Do you really think
I'd let you get away with everything you've done?" asks Stacey.
"Would you rather hang?" replies Trapp. Just then Capt. MacDowell
enters with the news that the word has officially come down that
he is indeed Stacey Grainger, but he is still being charged with the
murder of Sgt. Beale. However, now that he's officially a civilian,
they'll keep him in custody in the officers' quarters until he can
be turned over to the federal marshall. Trapp voices his objection
to this arrangement and tries to get Stacey to tell the Captain that
it was Martin who killed Beale, but Stacey will have nothing of it.
MacDowell then places Sgt. Trapp under arrest, saying, "Ten troopers
saw you go into Beale's room, not one saw you come out and we found
bloodstains proving he was nowhere near the stable when he was stabbed."
"You know what your father would say if he were here right now?" asks
Trapp. "I'd like to think he'd approve, but just between you and me,
Sergeant, I couldn't care less!" replies MacDowell. The episode closes
with Stacey and John exchanging salutes with the Captain and riding out of the fort. [rho]
This is a rough, brutal episode that boasts fine performances by Don Quine,
James Daly and Johnny Seven. There are no women in this episode, whatsoever. [rho]
Les Crane was a former disk jockey and television talk show host who was
married for a time to actress Tina Louise. He hosted one of several
failed ABC attempts to compete directly with Johnny Carson's "Tonight"
show in the 1960's. This is one of his few ventures into acting.
He had a hit record in 1971 with the spoken-word "Desiderata."[rho]
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Main Contributors for this episode - Robert Henry Ohlemeyer [rho] & BJ Townsend [bj]