Robert Mulligan’s 1972 psychological horror film, entitled The Other, may very well be one of the most underrated films that I have ever seen. This is unfortunate, because it is one of the most effective films of its kind. It is based on the novel of the same name by Tom Tryon, who also penned the screenplay.
In reviewing The Other, I am going to have to be very careful not to give away any spoilers, so forgive me if I am a little vague.
The Other opens with a haunting theme from composer Jerry Goldsmith, which sets the tone for the entire film. The Other takes place in the summer of 1935, and concerns two twins, Niles and Holland Perry, who live in a small town with their extended family. Niles is a tender-hearted and naive child, while Holland is a bit of a trouble-maker. Most of the time, Niles takes the blame for Holland’s questionable actions, but the shenanigans are largely written off as these are just two young boys having fun. Niles spends a lot of time with his Russian grandmother, Ada, who shares a special bond with the child. His mother has suffered a psychological breakdown and lives in solitude in one of the rooms of the house, and so Ada has helped him to cope with her absence. She has taught him a “game”, which allows him to have out of body experiences. Niles is highly susceptible to this type of game, a fact which concerns Ada. She tells Niles to be careful not to let the game get in the way of reality. She warns him that the game could be dangerous if he insists on playing it all of the time. Life goes on for those around him, however. Niles’ sister and brother-in-law have just had a baby girl, and much attention is lavished on this new addition to the family. Even so, Niles lives slightly on the outside of the real world, spending most of his time with Holland.
It’s strange, really. Although the people around Niles seem to acknowledge his twin brother, no one ever actually sees the two of them together. In fact, the temperamental Holland seems to spend most of his time dwelling in the darkness of the apple cellar in the barn. Otherwise, he only seems to appear in those moments when Niles is completely alone. Furthermore, Niles seems to be preoccupied with a tin container full of “treasures”, including a ring that belonged to his father – which is supposed to be buried six feet beneath the ground, but has somehow managed to find its way on Niles’ finger.
This is not the only thing inside of the tin. There is something else. Something wrapped in wax paper.
When a series of tragedies befalls the people of the small town, our story takes a shocking turn. Niles and Holland’s bratty cousin playfully jumps from the top of a hayloft, only to land on a pitchfork. A cantankerous old neighbor suddenly dies of a heart attack. And the newest addition to the family goes missing on a dark and stormy night. As Ada observes Niles from afar, as she hears him whispering to “the other” in the stillness of the night, she begins to fear the worst. The “game” may have gone too far.
The Other is a film that is incredibly hard to shake. Once its secrets are revealed, they burrow themselves beneath your skin and stay there. The real-life twins Chris and Martin Udvarnoky inhabit their roles as Niles and Holland perfectly, and seem comfortable in front of the camera. Uta Hagen stars as the mysterious, guilt-ridden Ada in a heartbreaking and phenomenal performance that stands on its own as a master class of acting. John Ritter makes an appearance as the brother-in-law named Rider. Director Robert Mulligan brings a dark and foreboding kind of nostalgia to this under-appreciated Gothic horror, quite unlike his other films, including the classic To Kill A Mockingbird and the coming-of-age romance, Summer of ’42.
True horror fans should seek out The Other, as it deserves a wider audience and is truly unnerving. Twilight Time has released The Other on a limited edition Blu-ray. As with all Twilight Time titles, there are only 3,000 of these in existence. Purchase one while you can! Fans of this film will surely be pleased. The 1080p transfer is lovely, and the remastered audio serves the film well. Special features include a theatrical trailer, a booklet containing information on the making of The Other, and an isolated music track, featuring Jerry Goldsmith’s score.
You can purchase this special edition Blu-ray here at Screen Archives.