Blu-ray Review: The Other (1972) - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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The unsettling 1972 horror film The Other was marketed with the rather blunt tagline, “Please don’t reveal the secret.” Okay, I won’t. Suffice it to say, however, that after 40 years of cinematic twists, it’s now stupefyingly easy to figure out director Robert Mulligan’s key narrative trick. And I say that as a viewer who is usually certifiably oblivious to such things until they’re right in front of my face. The good news is, The Other is not entirely reliant upon its secret. Adapted by Tom Tryon from his novel of the same name, the sickly atmosphere still manages to unnerve and the performances by twin brothers Chris and Martin Udvarnoky are spot-on.

In Depression-era Connecticut, brothers Niles and Holland (the Udvarnokys) lead a seemingly happily life. Bounding about their farmland, they stir up mild mischief (i.e. breaking a jar of preserves while trespassing on a neighbor’s property). As the sunny summer of 1935 stretches on, their activities take a notably more sinister turn as a series of “accidents” and “bad luck” begins altering (and sometimes claiming) lives. Turns out the boys’ father recently died after a nasty fall into the cellar. Their mother, Alexandra (Diana Muldaur, Dr. Pulaski on Star Trek: The Next Generation), behaves as if she’s been lobotomized. She’s entirely unaware of the sociopathic tendencies her children are displaying. Niles, for instance, doesn’t exactly have Prince Albert in a can—it’s something far less innocent that he carries around in the tobacco tin.

Other cover (168x220).jpgMeanwhile, the boys’ grandmother Ada (Uta Hagen) has helped Niles develop an unusual skill. When he plays “the great game,” Niles can project himself into the consciousness of another living creature (animal or human) and share its feelings and experiences. While conceptually interesting, this gimmick isn’t very well integrated and serves almost as a red herring. Much of the suspense in The Other hinges on which actions are being perpetrated by Niles and which ones by Holland. The Udvarnoky twins score points by sidestepping any typical “bad seed” clich├ęs. They maintain an outwardly placid demeanor that makes it easy to believe they aren’t capable of discerning right from wrong.

Robert L. Surtees’ cinematography looks great in this 1080p, high definition transfer. The source print was obviously in extraordinary shape when the transfer was struck, as the image is free of scratches or debris. The audio is presented as a straightforward DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono mix, apparently a faithful reproduction of the film’s original theatrical mix. Jerry Goldsmith’s clever score (which alternates between lush and stomach-churning) is offered as an isolated DTS-HD 2.0 track.

Even with the botched handling of the biggest surprise twist, there’s enough intrigue laced throughout The Other to keep it well worth discovering. It’s not a bloody, gory affair, nor does it really attempt to goose viewers with “jump” moments. But it’s depiction of evildoings, perpetrated by superficially benign sources, is definitely disturbing. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray edition is strictly limited to 3,000 copies; once their titles sell out, they’re no longer available. Stop by Screen Archives for ordering information.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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