Directed by Robert Mulligan
Produced by Robert Mulligan
Written by Thomas Tryon
Director of Photograpy Robert L. Surtees
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Uta Hagen, Diana Muldaur, Chris Udvarnoky, Martin Udvarnoky
1972/100 mins/Color/Dolby Stereo
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the 20th Cenury Fox Home Entertainment DVD
Ah, the influential horror film...is there anything better. These are the movies which either set the standard for a certain horror sub-genre, or more often, created or stimulated a new trend in scary movies. I won't bore you with a standard list of these films -- I'm sure that you're already thinking of one -- but we all know just how important these movies are. However, there is a problem with these landmark movies. If one sees the film when the movie is new, then one can truly appreciate the impact of the movie. But, if you don't see the movie for years, maybe even decades later, the importance of the film may not come through. Such was my experience with THE OTHER, a classic film whose power was somewhat lost on me.
THE OTHER is set on a farm in Connecticut, during the summer of 1935. There, we are introduced to the Perry twins, Niles (Chris Udvarnoky) and Holland (Martin Udvarnoky), two precocious young boys. Yet, the twins have lived through some recent hardships. Their father was killed in an accident in the barn, and this trauma has caused their mother, Alexandra (Diana Muldaur), to convalesce in her room most of the time. Still, the boys find plenty of time to play on the farm, often ignoring their cousin, Russell (Clarence Crow). Ada (Uta Hagen), one of the servants in the farmhouse, has taught Niles an exercise simply called "The Game", in which Niles can psychically see through the eyes of other people or creatures, and this is something else that the boys like to do.
Things turn dark on the farm when a series of disturbing occurrences take place. There are several deaths and an important family heirloom is discovered in the twins' possession. Alexandra and Ada begin to suspect that there may be something wrong with Niles and Holland, and they have no idea what kind of bizarre games the boys are playing in the apple cellar.
(THE OTHER contains not one, but two important plot twists, and I've discussed neither in the above synopsis. However, one is given away on the back of the DVD box, so be aware!)
THE OTHER is very much an old school psychological thriller and not only because it's set in the Thirties. The film was directed by Robert Mullgian, who directed TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and SUMMER OF '42. The screenplay is by Thomas Tryon, based on his own novel. Tryon was the actor who starred in I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE, who went on to be a novelist and wrote the chilling HARVEST HOME.
However, the film was also ahead of its time. Pre-dating THE EXORCIST and THE OMEN, THE OTHER could be considered the first entry into the 1970's "Killer Kids" genre. (Although this notion was far from original, as THE BAD SEED had debuted in 1956.) While the film's pacing often gives away the fact that it was made in the early 70s -- the middle drags quite a bit -- the narrative structure, and more importantly, the story pre-date many modern films. Again, I don't want to give away too much about the film, but I would venture to guess that David Fincher was influenced by this movie. (Although, I could be really wrong in that.) THE OTHER benefits from a second viewing, as we see how cleverly Tryon weaves certain phrases into the dialogue which can be taken two ways. When one first sees the film, these lines seem innocuous, but upon hearing them again, the audience realizes that the movie was toying with us. The movie isn't violent, but it never pulls any punches and we are never shielded from the behavior of Niles and Holland. The ending still packs quite a blow, as does the denouement.
However, as noted above, the problem with THE OTHER is that first-time viewers (such as myself) won't exactly be bowled over by the film. I can only assume that the movie was quite shocking in 1972, but today, the plot devices used here seem very hackneyed. Even if one doesn't notice the plot twist given away on the DVD box, the primary surprise should be easy to predict. (My wife had no idea what the movie was about, and guessed it within moments.) I had read about this movie for years and had a pretty good idea what the twist was, so I was disappointed in the fact that it was so easy to spot. However, I must admit that the last 1/3 of the movie carries some surprises and the finale is chilling.
THE OTHER is definitely one of those movies which will divide fans of modern and classic films. Some may find the movie slow and predictable, especially when compared to those movies which has come in its wake. But, there will also be viewers who will appreciate the film's structure and acknowledge the fact that for a studio film made in 1972, THE OTHER means business.
THE OTHER romps onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Given this film's age, the transfer looks quite good. The image is surprisingly clear as the picture is very sharp and shows little grain. The picture is very detailed and never goes overly soft. There are some minor defects from the source material, but these aren't distracting. The colors look fine, although some scenes are slightly washed out. The DVD has a Dolby Stereo audio track. The dialogue is clear, but it's somewhat muffled at times. (I had to throw on the subtitles for some scenes.) The stereo effects are OK, but not overly effective.
The lone extra on THE OTHER DVD is the original THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film, which is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and is 16 x 9. Do not watch this before you watch the movie, as it gives away far too much.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©