Synopsis: Down in the farm country of the US twins are born. One of them turns out to be good, while the other becomes rather evil.
Stars: Uta Hagen, Diana Muldaur, Chris Udvarnoky, Martin Udvarnoky, John Ritter
Director: Robert Mulligan
Running Length: 108 minutes
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review: One of the great things about writing a blog is getting introduced to films from the past that I’ve had no real excuse not to see up until this point. I’ve seen a lot of movies, no question, but there are those elusive films that get bumped down on my list or are quickly forgotten in favor of something newer. So it’s been nice to have a good enough reason to explore these films that have passed me by.
The Other is a film from this category – one that I’ve read a lot about over the years but just never got around to seeing. In exploring the selection at my local video store I just happened to catch the spine of the movie on the shelf and decided that since I was writing 31 Days to Scare that this was a good time to buckle down and take in the early 70’s thriller.
At the end of the day, I’m glad I saw the film so I can cross it off my list but I gotta say that the movie largely left me cold. That’s too bad because the film is gorgeously shot with several interesting performances that flow nicely with the depression-era setting. As a drama, I think the film works on one level but as a horror film it didn’t do it for me. Maybe I’ve seen too many similar films that had a larger impact but the movie has a sluggishly deliberate pace that sacked any hope of tension being created.
Directed with care by Mulligan (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Man in the Moon), The Other opens with Jerry Goldsmith’s creepy score and introduces us to the Perry twins, Niles and Holland (the Udvarnoky twins) as they play around the fields of their farm house. It’s quickly clear that Holland is more than naturally mischievous and hints of The Bad Seed lend some flavor to most of the picture as it becomes a case of “It wasn’t me, it was Holland!” a little too often.
The languid pacing isn’t given any help but largely languid performances. Hagen, in a rare film appearance, is perhaps a bit too committed to her role as the clueless grandmother to the boys. She plays “the game” with Niles, a mixture of astral projection and meditation and the results are a bit stupefying. I was never exactly sure what Mulligan and screenwriter Tom Tryon (adapting his own novel) were guiding us toward in these nicely rendered but strangely empty sequences.
There’s a big twist in The Other that the film’s trailer implores you not to give away. Perhaps at the time the twist was unexpected but if you can’t tell what’s going on in the movie you need to go back to Film 101 and start from scratch. It’s not that the twist is easy to figure out that robs the movie of surprise, it’s that for a film of this length it’s so dreadfully dull that you become hungry for something, anything, that will inject some life into it.
For reasons of sheer nostalgia I would say that The Other is a film that movie buffs will want to check out. Mulligan and Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Surtees paint the film with a golden glow of yellowing fields that play in stark contrast to the dark subject matter. It’s a Sunday afternoon kind of film – one that exists as a showcase of technique and performance over any real thrills.