The Other (1972) | Robert Mulligan’s Depression-era set psychological chiller is an unsetting, underrated original
When does the game stop and the terror begin?
It is the summer of 1935 on the Perry farmstead in rural Connecticut, where 10-year-old Niles (Chris Udvarnoky) spends the long days playing games with his mischievous twin Holland (Martin Udvarnoky), while his Russian grandmother Ada (Uta Hagen) helps him hone his gift for astral projection. Still grieving over the recent death of the boys’ father, fragile Alexandra (Diana Muldaur) refuses to leave her room – much to Niles’ annoyance. When a series of mysterious death befall the family, Niles is quick to blame his twin – which comes as a shock to Ada, because Holland died some months before…
There have been all the others, but now there is The Other.
If The Waltons had ever been made into a horror movie, it would probably have looked a lot like this creepy psychological chiller from 1972, based on a best-selling American gothic chiller novel by actor-turned-novelist Thomas Tyron (he was the eponymous alien in I Married a Monster from Outer Space). Featuring richly textured photography from Robert Surtees (of Ben-Hur and The Graduate fame) and ably directed by Robert Mulligan (To Kill a Mockingbird, Summer of ’42), The Other maybe low on full-on frights, but it sure knows how to rack up the tension.
Lulling you into a false sense of security – before the big reveal – is Surtees’ soft-lensed photography, which evokes halcyon days of a carefree rural childhood (I was channelling my inner Tom Sawyer as I watched it). But behind the innocent play something wicked this way comes as Mulligan presents a unnerving depiction of a disturbed childhood. Is there something supernatural going on, one that’s linked to the thing in the tobacco box that Niles clings to or in his ability to astral project? Is he a traumatised innocent or a sociopath in the making? Whatever you glean, The Other greatly echoes imaginative horrors like Cat People and the cryptic chills of The Innocents. It’s also an accomplished, unsetting creeper and an underrated original within the bad seed genre.
Chris and Martin Udvarnoky (in their only screen credit) give wonderfully naturalistic performances as cherubic Niles and cruel twin Holland, while double Tony Award-winning Broadway actress Uta Hagen is the film’s guiding soul, playing the concerned grandmother who, blaming herself for Niles’ state of mind, is forced to take drastic measures to save him. In 2010, Chris Udvarnoky died of polycystic kidney disease; while his brother Marty today works as a massage therapist in New Jersey.
SPECIAL DUAL FORMAT (BLU-RAY + DVD) EDITION:
Eureka! Entertainment presents The Other on Blu-ray as part of a dual format edition in a new transfer of the film in its original aspect ratio, with optional English subtitles. A trailer is included, as well as a booklet, which features an essay on the film and a reprint of a 1972 interview with director Robert Mulligan.