||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (October 2015)|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Mulligan|
|Produced by||Tom Tryon
|Written by||Tom Tryon (also novel)|
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Cinematography||Robert L. Surtees|
|Edited by||Folmar Blangsted
O. Nicholas Brown
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|May 26, 1972|
|Box office||$3.5 million (US/ Canada)|
The Other is a 1972 psychological thriller film directed by Robert Mulligan, adapted for film by Tom Tryon from his novel of the same name. It stars Uta Hagen, Diana Muldaur, and Chris and Martin Udvarnoky.
It's a seemingly idyllic summer in 1935, and identical twins Niles and Holland Perry play around the bucolic family farm. Holland is an amoral mischief maker, though sympathetic Niles is often caught in their shenanigans. Niles carries a Prince Albert tobacco tin with him containing several secret trinkets, including something mysteriously wrapped in blue wax paper, and the Perry family ring, which had been handed down from their grandfather, through their father, to Holland, the older twin. Niles asks Holland to confirm that the ring is now indeed his. "Cripes yes, I gave it to you," is the response. Niles asks Holland to take the ring and the wrapped object back, but Holland insists "I gave them to you, they're yours now." Their obnoxious cousin Russell, whom the boys call "Piggy Lookadoo" behind his back, finds them in the apple cellar below the barn—a place they are not supposed to play—and happens to see the contents of the tobacco tin, including the ring. Russell cryptically states that the ring was supposed to be buried, and promises to "tell on" Niles to his father, Niles' Uncle George. Uncle George padlocks the door to the apple cellar to keep the kids from playing there, but there is another stairway inside the barn, giving them access to the cellar.
The twins' mother is a frail recluse in her upstairs bedroom, physically weak and emotionally damaged, presumably grieving over the recent death of the boys' father in the apple cellar. (We learn later that that is not all she has to grieve about.) Grandmother Ada, a Russian emigrant, dotes on Niles, and has taught him a psychic ability to project himself outside of his body, for example in a bird; this ability she calls "the great game."
As the summer progresses, several tragedies befall the family and neighborhood, to people who have caused trouble for the boys, and it appears Holland may be responsible. A pet rat belonging to cousin Piggy Lookadoo dies in Holland's hand. Then, Piggy himself is killed when he leaps from the hayloft in the barn onto a large mound of straw, not noticing until the last second that a pitchfork is hidden in it, before he can tell anyone that Niles has the heirloom ring. A frightening magic trick performed for neighbor Mrs. Rowe, who had complained because Holland broke a large jar of her preserves, causes her to have a fatal heart attack.
After Russell's funeral, the twins' mother finds Niles' tobacco tin containing the ring and the object wrapped in waxed paper—a severed finger. That night, Niles sees her at the now boarded-up well, prostrate and sobbing inconsolably. As he leads her back up the stairs to her quarters, she demands that Niles tell her how he has possession of his father's ring. "Holland gave it to me," he answers. She's shocked, and asks him when he supposedly gave it to Niles. "In the parlor, after our birthday," he answers. Holland appears behind her, whispering, "Give it back!" and a struggle ensues on the landing. Mother falls down the long flight of stairs to the ground, and in the next scene we learn that she has been rendered partially paralyzed.
Ada walks next door to check on Mrs. Rowe, who has not been seen for several days. She discovers Mrs. Rowe's dead body, and finds Holland's harmonica at the scene. She seeks out Niles and locates him in church, where he is transfixed by the stained glass image of "The Angel of a Better Day." When Niles had previously expressed fear of death, Ada had described this angel as a comforting conveyor of the soul to heaven. Ada confronts Niles about Mrs. Rowe's death, and he identifies Holland as the culprit. Ada drags Niles to the church graveyard and demands that he look at a tombstone and face the truth: Holland has been dead since their birthday in March, when he fell down the well while trying to drown a cat. He was thought to have been buried with his father's ring, which, of course, is in Niles' possession. At home, Ada blames herself for teaching Niles "the game" and insists that he not play it anymore. But Niles continues to talk with "Holland." Niles relives the memory of how he acquired the ring: he came into the parlor when Holland was laid out in his coffin and opened the lid. Holland spoke to him, insisting that he take the ring. When it wouldn't budge, Holland instructed him to cut his finger off with a garden shears to obtain the ring. Niles kept both the ring and the severed finger in his tobacco tin. While Niles is reliving this memory in the parlor, Ada hears him in a whispered conversation with Holland.
Niles appears to have developed a fascination for the recent Lindbergh kidnapping tragedy (news about the trial is seen in a newspaper, and Niles has a crayon portrait of Bruno Hauptmann in his bedroom), and a scary fairy tale about some trolls who steal a human baby and replace it with an ugly creature called a "changeling." Later Niles happens to observe a drunk Mr. Angelini, the gardener, opening a large cask of wine stored in the barn. Angelini has spiraled into depression and alcoholism after Russell's death, blaming himself for leaving the pitchfork in the hay.
More tragedy strikes the family. During a fierce storm, the newborn baby of Torrie, Niles' older sister, is kidnapped from her bassinet, and an ugly doll left in the baby's place, somewhat like the Lindbergh case. As the adults mount a search for the baby, Niles sneaks off. Ada suspects that Niles knows more than he's letting on. When she discovers Niles in the barn, he is shouting for Holland, pleading for him to tell where the baby is. Ada must now face the realization that her beloved Niles is seriously disturbed and criminally insane. Niles confesses that "Holland" was responsible for all of the horrible events of the last few months, including the death of their father. Ada insists that he, Niles, has done all these things, but he refuses to believe her. Meanwhile the baby is found, drowned in Mr. Angelini's open wine cask, and the (innocent) gardener is apprehended. Returning to the barn and shutting the door, Ada hears Niles in the apple cellar where the boys like to hide, whispering with Holland. She empties a can of kerosene down the steps into the apple cellar, and, clutching an oil lantern, dives down the stairs into the cellar, starting a cataclysmic fire. Niles looks up at her as she is diving toward him, arms outstretched, and mentally sees an image of "The Angel of a Better Day." A beatific smile comes to his face.
As autumn begins, the ruins of the barn are being cleared. The camera zooms into the ruins and focuses on a padlock that has been cut open with a hacksaw. It is the lock that Uncle George had placed on the outside door to the apple cellar. We remember hearing the sound of a hacksaw in a previous scene, when Ada shouted into the barn, "Niles, what are you doing in there?" The camera pans up to show Niles, alive and well, watching the clean-up from an upper window in the house. His mother is a catatonic invalid, Ada has died in the barn fire, and no one knows Niles' terrible secret.
When the film aired on CBS in the 1970s, a voice-over at the end of the film has Niles speaking to Holland: "Holland, the game's over. We can't play the game anymore. But when the sheriff comes, I'll ask him if we can play it in our new home." The voice-over truncates a line by the maid, Winnie, who in the theatrical cut says, "Niles, wash up now — time for lunch," whereas in the voice-over version she is cut off after merely "Niles, wash up now." The voice-over is not on the home video releases nor has it appeared on any recent television airing.
The film was shot entirely on location in Murphys, California and Angels Camp, California. Director Robert Mulligan had hoped to shoot the film on location in Connecticut, where it takes place, but because it was autumn when the film entered production (and therefore the color of the leaves would not reflect the height of summer, when the story takes place) this idea was dropped.
Mulligan described his intentions with the film: “I want to put the audience into the body of the boy with this shot and to make the experience of the film, from beginning to end, a totally subjective one.” Of the character of Niles, he commented, “If Niles could have life just the way he wanted it, his world would contain only Ada, Holland, and himself—preferably only Holland and himself." Of the character of Ada, he commented, “She was the heart of the house. She has a primitive sense of imagination and drama, which is the greatest thing an adult can give a child… Her only failing is that she has a maternal love so strong that it blinds her to what is happening. Though she enriches and turns on the child’s imagination, her gift is used in a destructive way by the child.”
This would be the only movie appearance by the twins Chris and Martin Udvarnoky, the featured stars. Mulligan never shows the brothers in frame together. They are always separated by a camera pan, or an editing cut.
Goldsmith's compositions for the film can be heard in a 22 minute suite found on the soundtrack album of The Mephisto Waltz. This CD was released 25 years after the release of the film. According to the liner notes of the soundtrack, over half of Goldsmith's music was removed during the film's post production. It does not specify whether this was the result of deleted footage or a decision affecting the music only.
Chris Udvarnoky eventually became an emergency medical technician. He died in Elizabeth, New Jersey on October 25, 2010, at the age of 49. Coincidentally, this was also the same day that the film made its premiere showing on Turner Classic Movies. Martin Udvarnoky works as a massage therapist in Summit, New Jersey.
Differences between the book and the film
The movie's ending features some important changes. In the book, it is Mr. Angelini who learns that Niles killed the baby and who placed the pitchfork in the hay; Mr. Angelini is never charged and is a trusted employee. In the film Angelini is falsely assumed to be the murderer, and in her delirium Ada commits her suicidal act before revealing his innocence. The movie even adds animosity toward Angelini on the part of Aunt Vee, who clearly blames him for the death of her son, Russell. The book contains a frame narrative by an adult Niles in an asylum. The movie however ends with the disturbed Niles under no suspicion and thus being free to cause more tragedy.
The book also differs in that it clearly states that Niles has been pretending to be Holland since Holland's death at the well.
The film experienced a quiet theatrical run, but it had regular television airings in the late '70s. Among the film's admirers was Roger Ebert, who wrote in his review, "[The film] has been criticized in some quarters because Mulligan made it too beautiful, they say, and too nostalgic. Not at all. His colors are rich and deep and dark, chocolatey browns and bloody reds; they aren't beautiful but perverse and menacing. And the farm isn't seen with a warm nostalgia, but with a remembrance that it is haunted." After Chris Udvarnoky's death on October 25, 2010, Ebert paid tribute to Udvarnoky on his Twitter page.
Tom Tryon, however, was disappointed with the film, despite having written the screenplay himself. When asked about the film in a 1977 interview, Tryon recalled, "Oh, no. That broke my heart. Jesus. That was very sad... That picture was ruined in the cutting and the casting. The boys were good; Uta was good; the other parts, I think, were carelessly cast in some instances--not all, but in some instances. And, God knows, it was badly cut and faultily directed. Perhaps the whole thing was the rotten screenplay, I don't know. But I think it was a good screenplay."
In the same interview, Tryon also hinted that he had been initially considered to direct the film before Mulligan was hired for the job: "It was all step-by-step up to the point of whether I was going to become a director or not. The picture got done mainly because the director who did it wanted to do that property, and he was a known director; he was a known commodity."
For his part, director Mulligan admitted that in post-production, “I cut a lot in The Other from long, open shots to tight, constricting close-ups."
- Chris Udvarnoky – Niles Perry
- Martin Udvarnoky – Holland Perry
- Uta Hagen – Ada
- Diana Muldaur – Alexandra
- Norma Connolly – Aunt Vee
- Victor French – Mr. Angelini
- Loretta Leversee – Winnie
- Lou Frizzell – Uncle George
- Clarence Crow – Russell
- John Ritter – Rider
- Jenny Sullivan – Torrie
- Portia Nelson – Mrs. Rowe
- Jack Collins – Mr. Pretty
- Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p256
- Solomon p 232. Please note figures are rentals not total gross.
- "The Other". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Obituaries & Guestbooks from The Star-Ledger
- "Ebertchicago". Twitter.
- ^ a b c Dahlin 1977, p. 263
- Dahlin, Robert (1977). Conversations With Writers. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company. ISBN 0-8103-0943-2.
- The Other at the Internet Movie Database
- The Other at AllMovie
- Roger Ebert's review of the movie
- Review at Scifilm.org
- The Other at Rotten Tomatoes