For the many fans of The Last Express (among the relatively few who played it) comes a bittersweet revelation from Jordan Mechner this week, as the game's creator unveiled a "fragment" of a previously-unreleased prequel screenplay called "Red Serpent".
On his personal website, Mechner posted the 48-page screenplay written in 2002. The story takes place mostly in Paris in 1904, ten years before the events of The Last Express, detailing an "early adventure of Robert Cath (still in medical school) and his best/worst friend Tyler Whitney". According to Mechner, the story bears certain similarities to The Da Vinci Code, but was written prior to the release of Dan Brown's novel, and takes a more tongue-in-cheek approach to the subject matter. In fact, the tone is one of the reasons Mechner cites for abandoning the screenplay, claiming that "it’s not really of a piece with The Last Express. It’s more fluffy and lightweight. It can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a movie in the Indiana Jones/Da Vinci Code spirit, or a spoof of that kind of movie."
With no small amount of self-deprecation, Mechner also notes that as a first draft it "screams out to be tightened, strengthened, improved. It’s full of flabby scenes and missed opportunities, with too little happening in too many pages. The plot is half-baked." Nevertheless, the screenplay should still provide a fascinating read to Last Express fans, even if it's a painful tease of what might have been.