BR: Other, The (1972)

February 10, 2014 | By

Film: Very Good / BR Transfer: Excellent/ BR Extras: Good

Label: Twilight Time / Region: All / Released: October 8, 2013

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Synopsis: Strange accidents pepper what should be an otherwise banal summer for a pair of twins in 1935.

Special Features: Isolated stereo music track / Theatrical Trailer / 8-page colour booklet with liner notes by Film Historian Julie Kirgo / Limited to 3000 copies / Available exclusively from Screen Archives Entertainment.

 

 

Review:

After a healthy career starring in TV and feature films (notably Otto Preminger’s underrated The Cardinal), Tom Tryon shifted gears to write novels, making a splashy debut as the author of the best-selling shocker The Other, and its feature film adaptation.

Set in an idyllic rural community just after the Lindberg baby kidnapping made headlines in 1935, Tryon’s story is initially about two morally differing twins – empathetic Niles and mischievous Holland (perfectly played by one-time actors Chris and Martin Udvarnoky) – whose fantasy games begin to cause strange deaths in the immediate vicinity. Holland’s cruelty extends to animals and taunting a mother (Diana Muldaur) still reeling after the ‘accidental’ death of their father, whereas Niles’ Russian grandmother Ada (Uta Hagen) may have over-indulged her grandson’s imagination through something called The Great Game – forcing Niles to place himself in the position of a flying bird for fun, or empathizing with an interred cadaver to confront a grievous reality.

Whether Niles has an overworked imagination, genuine supernatural abilities, and possible murderous tendencies (he keeps a tin with his father’s ring and a severed finger perpetually under his shirt) is kept vague by director Robert Mulligan (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Summer of ’42, The Man in the Moon), who clearly bonded with the story’s period setting and child characters. The film’s optics are locked to the boys’ perspectives  – Mullgan sticks the camera at their eye-level, uses claustrophobic close-ups, and roving & zooming camera moves stitched together with arresting editing.

Tryon was reportedly not pleased with Mulligan’s editorial style – there is a sense slow moments and nuances were trimmed both for pacing, removing redundancies, and establishing a grasp of reality that’s as jumpy as the boys’ – but the editing does plow through material that could’ve further tested the limits of audience attention.

The Other’s  a great technical exercise that almost compensates for the rather deadly pacing in the first hour. A little too much time is spent on watching the boys run around and plot something vague in the barn’s dim cellar… but it all leads to a great twist, and a revelation which clearly influenced one of the late nineties’ biggest horror hits. (Like that now classic film, to reveal further details would also blow The Other’s second act. Perhaps to make the film more palatable to TV audiences, the ending was altered by CBS in a fashion not retained for any home video releases, including this Blu-ray.)

The period décor and rural setting are first-rate, and Mulligan manages to extract compelling performances from his young leads who manage to carry a very difficult films; had they been weak in any scene, the mystery of their ‘games’ would’ve wobbled and likely collapsed. It also helps that the boys are supported by an excellent cast not necessarily known for heavy film work. Uta Hagen (The Boys from Brazil) is a bit heavy but often gripping as the grandmother, and TV actors Muldauer and Victor French (Little House on the Prairie) are excellent as the mother and the family’s handyman, respectively. A pre-Three’s Company John Ritter is also strong in a small role as the boy’s married brother-in-law.

The film’s creepy mood is sustained by Jerry Goldsmith’s restrained score – a child’s loose whistling of the main theme is especially unsettling – which is isolated in stereo on Twilight Time’s cleanly mastered Blu-ray.

Tryon’s filmed works include The Other (1972), The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978) TV movies, and the store for Billy Wilder’s Fedora (1978).

 

 

© 2013; revised 2014 Mark R. Hasan

 

External References:

IMDB Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography

 

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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