No Man Is an Island (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stuart Galbraith IV
  • Review Date: Jun 02, 2023
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
  • Bookmark and Share
No Man Is an Island (Blu-ray Review)


Richard Goldstone, John Marks, Jr.

Release Date(s)

1962 (March 14, 2023)


Gold Coast Productions/Universal-International (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: A-
  • Extras Grade: B

No Man Is an Island (Blu-ray)

Buy it Here!


A not-bad war film produced independently and released through Universal-International, No Man Is an Island (1962) is moderately effective, partly because it tells a fairly intimate, largely unknown but true story, about a U.S. Navy radioman who eluded Japanese soldiers on occupied Guam for two-and-a-half years, December 1941 to July 1944, aided by many locals. The film was clearly not expensive, shot as it was entirely on location in the Philippines with just two Hollywood actors in the cast. (At a guess, the whole shebang cost $350,000 or less.) Jointly produced, written, and directed by Richard Goldstone and John Monks, Jr., the film looks a little cheap here and there, but while Goldstone and Monks were clearly no Powell and Pressburger, they were professional, Hollywood veterans, and overall the longish (114 minutes) film maintains interest throughout. Near the very end of the story is a brief scene that cleverly and effectively refers back to a seemingly throwaway line near the beginning. It’s a thoughtful bit of writing one doesn’t usually find in action and exploitation movies Hollywood producers shot in the Philippines.

The film stars Jeffrey Hunter as real-life hero George Ray Tweed. In December 1941, Tweed is a radio operator at a mountaintop Navy outpost on Guam awaiting transfer back to the States. Pearl Harbor and the invasion of Guam by the Japanese puts the kibosh on that. Tweed and four others—Roy (Fred Harris II), Turney (Paul Edwards, Jr.), Chico (Ronald Remy), and Sonnenberg (Marshall Thompson)—head for the hills rather than surrender.

The Japanese are none-too-happy to find five American sailors unaccounted for, and send patrols out looking for them, threatening locals that might harbor them, and offer a reward for information leading to their arrest. Within the first few days all but Tweed are captured or killed but, again and again, the local Chamorros of Guam risk their own lives to help the American, who becomes a kind of symbol of anti-Japanese tenacity.

Tweed first told his story in a 1945 book called Robinson Crusoe, USN. Coincidentally, a few years after No Man Is an Island, Disney produced the comedy Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N., which had some plot similarities (Navy man stranded on a South Seas island, falling in love with a native girl, etc.) but that film was a comedy set in the present day.

Because it was filmed in the Philippines rather than Guam, all the Chamorros are played by Filipinos speaking Tagalog rather than Chamorros—doubtlessly strange when the film was eventually screened in Guam. Similarly, the Japanese in the film are played by non-professional Japanese players living in the Philippines or by Filipinos, none of whom speak Japanese well or act very much like authentic Japanese soldiers of the period. One character in particular is a Japanese bar owner named Mrs. Nakamura. As played by a Filipina comedian named Chicháy, the character is a wildly inauthentic, grotesque stereotype but, then again, Japanese occupiers weren’t exactly popular in the Philippines, either, still very much an open wound in 1962.

The film fairly accurately recreates Tweed’s story, though he was older than Jeffrey Hunter, 34-35 at the time, whereas Tweed was in his forties and looked more like Marshall Thompson than Hunter. The film implies Tweed was a carefree bachelor but in reality Tweed had a family living on Guam that was evacuated just prior to the invasion. This was apparently changed to provide the film with a love interest, a local beauty named “Joe” Cruz, played by the “Filipina Audrey Hepburn,” Barbara Perez, who really does resemble Hepburn.

One bad decision by Goldstone and Monks was to make one of the men, Turney, a racist, bellyaching coward anxious to surrender, overkill for a true story already suspenseful without it. The fate of the men and some of the locals that helped them has been shuffled around some, but generally rings true. Several were executed by decapitation; in one scene Tweed comes across a couple of decapitated bodies, a disquieting image for a 1962 general Hollywood release.

The inherently interesting story of a sailor hiding out from the Japanese, struggling to survive, overcomes the picture’s mostly minor failings. Goldstone and Monks manage a few big-scale action scenes, such as the Japanese burning of a huge hospital compound where Tweed is hiding out at one point.

Star Jeffrey Hunter was a bigger name than Marshall Thompson, though Thompson might have been better than Hunter, who’s merely adequate. Hunter graduated to leading roles while under a seven-year (1951-58) contract at 20th Century Fox, though his best roles tended to be in loan-outs to other companies, such as his Martin Pawley in John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), released through Warner Bros. His biggest success post-Fox was as Jesus in the Samuel Bronston epic King of Kings (1961), after which it was mostly downhill for Hunter, he primarily starring in modest multinational European productions or supporting parts in Hollywood epics shot in Europe, though he continued starring in the occasional modestly-budgeted Hollywood film. Ironically, he may be most widely remembered for bailing as the lead on Star Trek. He starred as Capt. Pike in the first pilot episode, The Cage, but apparently his then-wife talked him out of participating when a second pilot was ordered, which led to the TV series, she insisting to that show’s producers that her husband was a “movie star,” not a TV actor. Hunter died not long after, in 1969 at age 42. The real Tweed outlived Hunter by 20 years.

John Monks, Jr. was an actor and writer who first gained fame co-writing the play Brother Rat in 1936. During the war Monks served in the Marine Corps, where he formed a friendship with producer Louis de Rochemont, which led to his writing or co-writing a number of postwar movies including the seminal film noirs The House on 92nd Street and Knock on Any Door. Later in life he returned to acting, most memorably in the Sylvester Stallone film Paradise Alley. Richard Goldstone was a writer-producer, notably on The Set-Up and The Tall Target, as well as Tobor the Great and Cinerama South Seas Adventure.

Kino’s Blu-ray of No Man Is an Island presents the film in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The Eastman color film, shot by Oceania-based Carl Kayser, looks pretty accurate for a quickly-shot production where not every shot is in perfect focus or adequately lit. The DTS-HD Master Audio (2.0 mono) is acceptable, and optional English subtitles are provided on this Region “A” disc.

Supplements include a newly remastered (in 2K) trailer and a pretty good and new audio commentary track by film historians Steve Mitchell and Steven Jay Rubin that covers all the bases.

No Man Is an Island is fairly good for what it is, its real-life story by itself driving most of its appeal. Recommended.

- Stuart Galbraith IV