Other, The (1972)

Director: Robert Mulligan

Stars: Chris Udvarnoky, Martin Udvarnoky, Uta Hagen, John Ritter

Release Company: 20th Century Fox

MPAA Rating: PG

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Robert Mulligan: The Other


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I remember seeing The Other when it was first released in 1972 and being disturbed by the general concept and haunted by a couple of images (that I can't reveal, lest it give away too much). Similar to Freaks (even including a brief scene at a carnival freak show) the film has elements of horror, but overall it's hard to classify under strictly one genre—many parts are rather pastoral, others have elements of a thriller, yet the overall effect remains one of horror.

Much of The Other revolves around a few plot twists and devices, so I'll avoid spoiling key information.

After starring in minor parts in numerous Hollywood films (The Longest Day, The Cardinal and 18 others) Tom Tryon produced and wrote this disturbing tale, set in the New England countryside in 1935. The film opens in the woods on a pensive young boy named Niles, who has an identical twin brother named Holland. The twins may look alike, but their personalities are completely different—Niles is the shy, introspective nice child while Holland is the outgoing naughty one.

It seems that the camera is doing elementary tricks on us at the beginning when it never shows the twins in one frame together. So it appears that they are using the same kid for both twins until the credits reveal that identical twins Christopher and Martin Udvarnoky were cast as Niles and Holland respectively. Using inexperienced child actors to carry the movie has drawbacks (this will be the boys' only film), but the two perform adequately enough. In fact, they act like . . . kids, who alternate between being innocent, playful, and crude. Even more professional child actors wouldn't be able to reveal much more character than the Udvamoky twins since the script is mostly interested in the boys as plot devises. Creating the overall ominous atmosphere is far more important than any potential character study.

The most developed character is the grandmother many of us would love to have—Ada (Uta Hagen), who is especially close to Niles. She has taught him "The Game," akin to the way the mythological Merlin instructed King Arthur by teaching him how "get inside" other creatures to see their point of view, best illustrated with the scene where Niles sees the area from a crow's eye view. The soaring camerawork here is very effective. After this sequence, we understand what the boys mean by playing "The Game" in other circumstances.

From pre-screening clues on the video box and by its usual classification in the horror section, some creepy things are anticipated and director Robert Mulligan doesn't disappoint—he builds suspense gradually (some will think far too slowly), and he'll throw out a number of red herrings. You may be able to guess "some" of the secret that the movie tag line "Please Don't Reveal the Secret of The Other" refers to, but you'll be hard pressed to guess all of it. Jerry Goldsmith's haunting score helps measurably—it's memorable, but not overused.

Despite its age, the film still holds up fairly well but would flop as a new release in today's film climate. Certain scenes would be shot differently today to show a lot more blood and gore. I'd love to see what Argento could do with this psychological horror/thriller, given his track record with Phenomena and Deep Red. Instead, viewers will see glimpses of various accidents (or are they?) and will anticipate the coming gore scenes, only to have the camera switch elsewhere. While Hitchcock proved that such a technique can work magnificently, Mulligan is no match for the master. The Other is a competent flick that will prove to be a lot freakier for film fans with active imaginations.

Unfortunately, the film came onto the scene a few years too early and was quickly buried by the superior Halloween and other teen slasher films that played off Halloween's success. The Other is now out of print and largely forgotten, perhaps still stored on some dusty rental shelves or sold on a few online auction sites. I don't anticipate this relatively low budget flick to be revived, unless someone can obtain the rights for a remake. But it's certainly worth a rental if you can get hold of a copy—it was good enough to pop back into memory when I was trying to think of an overlooked horror film, and there's certainly a lot bloodier flicks that have long ago been erased from memory.

 


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