By the end of 1972's psychological thriller, 'The Other,' we're left wondering how a single family could endure so much grief and loss in a short span of a few months. The plot, adapted by Tom Tryon and based on his novel of the same name, is set on an idyllic family farm during the summer of 1935. When we meet a playful but mischievous pair of twins, the boys had already suffered the recent fatal accident of their father, which we later find out they also witnessed. With that in mind, we see the family endure more deaths and accidents for the next 90 minutes. It makes for a good entertainment, but it's also a rather exhaustive and somewhat taxing experience that frankly wears out its welcome.
Normally, such matters don't bother me, but this being a drama, it really weighs the narrative down because it's central to the plot: the deaths are mysteriously linked to a secret between the twins. Niles and Holland (Chris and Martin Udvarnoky) are coincidentally nearby when something bad happens, with Niles doing much of the talking and coming to his brother's defense. Unfortunately, the secret is easy to unravel as certain events very early on make it clear what the boys are hiding. And with that already figured out, the story is fairly straightforward, especially when taking into consideration the different personalities of the boys. Niles is more cheerful and go-lucky while Holland is angrier and devious.
Where the movie works best is in following Holland in his shenanigans and watching the ways he manipulates Niles, who apparently is 20 minutes younger and is constantly reminded of that fact by Holland. One of the more disturbing mysteries is how the boys came in possession of a family ring that was supposedly buried with their grandfather and why they carry a child's finger wrapped in blue wax paper. The twins' mother (Diana Muldaur) is a sad recluse who spends much of her time with a forced smile but somber eyes, still mourning the death of her husband. Or at least, that's what we're told or lead to believe. Once everything is fully disclosed, of course, we gain a better understand of just how troubled this family truly is. Regrettably, the revelation is not one that would require a second viewing as it all makes perfectly fine sense from the get-go.
The family matriarch is the incredibly gentle and sweet Grandma Ada (Uta Hagen). She is particularly close and tender with Niles, and she too hides a secret that only the boy and she share in confidence. It's also an area within the story I'm disappointed the filmmakers didn't explore further. Apparently, Niles and Grandma possess a supernatural sixth sense and a talent for prophesying the future. At one point, she reveals and teaches the boy another natural ability she calls "the great game": to psychically project himself inside others. He uses this talent to learn the gimmick behind a disappearing magic trick we sees at a carnival. Later, he feels compelled to perform the same trick for his family without knowing that's he's actually preparing for one of his unconscious predictions at the end.
Despite the several negative aspects I've pointed out, 'The Other' is relatively entertaining with some amusingly creepy moments spread throughout, all leading up to an outrageously horrifying shocker at the end. If for nothing else, the movie is worth watching for that one single payoff because sadly, the rest feels too much like something made especially for television. Director Robert Mulligan, better known for his work on 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' takes a rather generic approach here with many awkwardly placed close-ups and odd editing. The cinematography of Robert L. Surtees, on the other hand, elevates the production, providing the scenery with a romanticized, idyllic appeal that also feels cursed and dejected. However, it's not enough to make this dramatic thriller memorable.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Other' comes to Blu-ray as a Limited Edition release courtesy of Twilight Time. The Region Free, BD50 disc is housed in a blue case joined by a six-page booklet with an essay by screenwriter Julie Kirgo. At startup, the disc goes straight to a static menu with the usual options.
The psychological thriller terrifies on Blu-ray with a shockingly excellent and highly-detailed 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, one that suggests it probably was made from a remaster of the original negative. The video perfectly preserves the gorgeous, idyllic photography of Robert L. Surtees, beautifully displaying colors with lush vitality and energy. Primaries, in particular, are richly-saturated, and flesh tones appear healthy with terrific lifelike textures during close-ups. Contrast is spot-on with brilliant whites while blacks are darkly rendered with first-rate shadow delineation.
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the high-def transfer also shows crisp, sharp lines in the surrounding foliage, costumes and along various buildings. A few shots are understandably softer than others as the result of the source's condition. All in all, the film looks spectacular on Blu-ray for its age.
Robert Mulligan's 'The Other' surprises once more with an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio mono soundtrack that wonderfully complements the stunning quality of the video. The design is more character and dialogue driven, so background activity is somewhat minimal, meaning there's not much happening during non-speaking sequences. However, when atmospherics are employed, they're displayed with outstanding clarity and accuracy, providing the soundstage with a splendid sense of space and acoustical presence. Low bass is sadly unimpressive, almost lacking, but it's only notable when thunder roars. Vocals are precise and intelligible from beginning to end, making this a great lossless mix.
There are no special features.
Based on the bestselling novel by Tom Tryon, 1972's psychological thriller 'The Other' has plenty in the psychological department but very little in the thriller category. From director Robert Mulligan, the story is frankly on the dry side yet admittedly mysterious enough to keep viewers watching, but honestly, it's all about that final horrifying shocker at the end. The limited edition Blu-ray from Twilight Time arrives with an excellent audio and video presentation that will surely surprise. However, the lack of supplemental material makes this one a tough choice, but nostalgic fans will no doubt be very happy with the purchase.