"Forty Years from Sand Island" (film)


Title Forty Years from Sand Island
Date 1983
Director Mike Vejar
Screenplay Rogers Turrentine; Robert W. Gilmer; Reuben Leder
Starring Tom Selleck (Magnum); John Hillerman (Higgins); James Shigeta (Enoka); Keye Luke (Goto); Marilyn Tokuda (Nancy Nakamura); David Palmer (Sorenson)
Runtime 54 minutes
IMDB Forty Years from Sand Island

Episode of the Magnum P.I. television series that centers on a murder in the Sand Island Internment Camp in 1942. The episode from the popular series' third season first aired in 1983.

The story begins in January 1942, when two young internees at Sand Island (appearing to be in their 20s) go to the latrine late one night and witness two guards beating another middle-aged internee to death. Flashing to the present, we learn that one of the young witnesses is Dr. Enoka (James Shigeta), who is in the midst of running for senator. Higgins (John Hillerman), who is helping Masters research a novel on World War II in Hawai'i, goes to see Enoka, but Enoka refuses to talk about his past. Higgins is then injured when the brakes on his car fail. Thinking there might be some connection to the murder, Magnum goes to visit the Nakamuras, the son and granddaughter of the murdered man. Though granddaughter Nancy (Marilyn Tokuda) is angry and anxious to know what happened, her Nisei father also refuses to talk. She suggests that Magnum talk to Seiji Goto (Keye Luke), the other man who witnessed the murder. Goto reluctantly talks and recalls that the guard who killed Nakamura was named Sorenson.

Coincidentally, Magnum's friend knows a Sorenson of about the right age who plays golf regularly at the country club. Magnum goes out to play with him, confirming he is the guy, and brings Goto with him the next day to confirm it. But then someone shoots Sorenson. Nancy Nakamura drives off quickly from the scene. Magnum follows her to her home, but it turns out she didn't shoot him. Magnum goes to talk to Enoka, suggesting that Enoka had killed Sorenson to keep him quiet, because Enoka had been blackmailing Sorenson with knowledge of the murders to do favorable business deals with him. Magnum goes back to talk to Goto, when Enoka turns up and shoots at Magnum, grazing him. Magnum manages to disarm Enoka, who implores Goto to shoot Magnum, telling him to "remember Sand Island." Magnum tells Goto that to shoot him would be to dishonor Nakamura. Goto throws the gun into the ocean.

Relative to other television depictions of internment camps, the brief scenes at Sand Island are relatively accurate. We see a line of well-dressed men being escorted into the camp. Though the long shot of the barracks looks more like a War Relocation Authority camp, the interior shots show the men sleeping in rows of cots. This is generally consistent with the nearly all-male population of Sand Island and not too far removed from its actual appearance. In addition, it is clear that the internees were Americans, with one even running for political office. The dynamic of the Sansei daughter wanting to find out what happened and being exasperated by her father's silence is one found in many Japanese American families of the time.

"Forty Years from Sand Island" was written by Rogers Turrentine, Robert W. Gilmer & Reuben Leder and directed by Mike Vejar. It first aired on February 24, 1983.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho