The Other (1972)

The OtherTwins of evil?

No two ways about it, this is a strange film. Acclaimed actor-turned-novelist Tom Tryon (I Married A Monster from Outer Space (1958) (film) Harvest Home (novel, itself filmed as well-received TV mini-series The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978) starring Bette Davis) wrote The Other in 1971, and it came to the attention of acclaimed director Robert Mulligan (To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), Summer of ’42 (1971)), who, along with Tryon as screenwriter, succeeded in turning it into a film that, while it enjoyed only modest success on its original release has, like all the best horror, improved greatly with time and now has a loyal cult following.

And the story has the simplicity of a grim folk tale – identical 11-year-old identical twins Niles and Holland Perry (Chris and Martin Udvarnoky respectively) are enjoying an idyllic 1935 summer on their family’s farm – the daily activities of the farm are seen entirely through the boys’ eyes, with Holland the mischievous trouble-maker and Niles the more sympathetic, naive and credulous frequent victim of his brother’s pranks. Their mother is a recluse in her upstairs bedroom, grieving over the recent death of the boys’ father, while grandmother Ada (Uta Hagen), a Russian emigrant, dotes on Niles and has taught him how to project himself outside of his body – a psychic ability that she calls “the great game”, but it is a game that may be getting very dangerously out of control…

Mulligan’s film, ultimately, is something of a one-trick pony, but there’s no denying the fact that it’s a trick that will take most viewers by surprise when it comes – Mulligan’s decision to present the action from the perspectives of both boys is one of the rare occassions when cinema, in subverting the omniscient narration of a novel, is in fact more effective.

And it is chilling – without giving the twist away, whether it is supernatural or not is a matter for individual perspectives, but there is no doubting the clammy sense of dread that the film still evokes. One for a Saturday night, with a good bottle of wine, in front of a shadowy, flickering fire.

Watch the trailer for The Other here.

108 mins.

4 thoughts on “The Other (1972)”

  1. Oh yes, ha-de-ha, I wondered how long it would be before that ‘joke’ made it onto the site, mate – you’re quicker than I expected, don’t you have nappies to change or some such? 😉 A hearty official congratulations from all at Picturenose, by the way, on the arrival of Samuel Anthony. 🙂

    Now, where was I? Ah yes, ‘T’Other‘…as I recall, you did watch this film with me and, as I further recall, you were not that impressed with it. Seriously, mate, it deserves a second chance – very much a product of its times, but it has a macabre edge that is rarely found in most modern horror, and I think it has stood up very well.

  2. Saw this one in 1972, James, and has remained one of my all-time favorites. Mulligan is one underestimated director.

  3. Hello Willy – great to have you on board sir, welcome to Picturenose! 🙂

    Indeed – Mulligan’s back-log is more than impressive and, as is so often the case, it is remarkable how good some macabre films are that have been made by a director not normally associated with the genre, and The Other is a very good example. Hope to hear more from you soon.

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