Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain
As a child, Escape to
Witch Mountain was one of my favorite films. However, we all grow
up and often when we revisit old favorites you are disappointed.
Tastes change, styles change, attitudes change, I've changed. Will I
still love Escape to Witch Mountain?
Now, with a loose remake of
the Witch Mountain films due soon on the cinematic horizon (Race
to Witch Mountain with Dwayne "Don't Call Me The Rock Anymore" Johnson)
- the original film and its 70s sequel are being rereleased on video, so the
time is perfect to take a step back in time to see if Escape to Witch
Mountain has held up. Also I was curious about Return from
Witch Mountain, which I do vaguely remember existing but never quite took up
residence in my head like it's predecessor. Was this because the film
was not as good - or was I just too old even when it came out to appreciate
what I had loved just a few years before?
Besides, the series allows
you to catch a bunch of aging and now long-gone Hollywood stars such as
Eddie Albert, Ray Milland, Donald Pleasance, Bette Davis and Christopher Lee
in the final stretch of their legendary careers. Well, Lee is still
hanging on, keeping rather busy at acting well into his eighties, but the
others are long dead.
Now that I've watched them
from an adult perspective, the truth is that Escape to Witch Mountain
is not as wonderful as I remember it being when I was in Jr. High.
Perhaps nothing could be as good as the memory I had. Still, I feel a
great love for the film. It brings a different kind of pleasure than
it brought to me in the 70s. Now I can recognize it has imperfections
- cheesy parts, some awkward dialogue, primitive special effects and various
unfortunate clothing choices - and still completely dig it on a nostalgic
Escape from Witch
Mountain came in the mid-70s, when things like ESP and UFOs were all the
rage. Escape touched on both of these manias - making its
heroes a couple of orphaned children from outer space who were stranded on
the earth (they do not realize they are aliens until well into the film,
though.) Tony and Tia were played by young actors Ike Eisenmann and
Kim Richards. They each had different powers - Tia was able to
communicate telepathically with humans and animals, Tony was able to see
glimpses of the future and both were able to move things - including
themselves - with just their minds.
When a crusty millionaire
(Ray Milland) and his henchman (Donald Pleasance) see their powers in action
they decide to adopt the children, in hopes of making money off of their
talents. Tony and Tia see through them and run away from the huge
estate, eventually stowing away on the Winnebago of a crusty-but-loveable
widower (Eddie Albert).
Tony and Tia find a map
that they need to get back to their home and they drive through the local
countryside with their new friend - evading the millionaire's henchmen and
townspeople who are hungry for a huge reward.
Even though it is not
nearly as good as I remember, I have to admit for me at least it did hold
up. Escape to Witch Mountain's imperfections somehow add to
their nostalgic charm. It is a reminder of a kinder, gentler world
that may not have even existed outside of Disney films - but I was glad for
the opportunity to go back, even for a little while.
And still, all these years
later, their pet Winkie is one of the coolest cats in film history.
is the contractually-obligated sequel. It hasn't aged
nearly as well as its predecessor, then again it was never nearly as good,
so it didn't have as far to fall. Return from Witch
The film has Tony and Tia
flying into Pasadena to take a vacation in back-lot Los Angeles.
However, they have barely arrived before Tony gets kidnapped by an evil
scientist (Christopher Lee) who has figured out mind control and wants to
exploit Tony's powers. The scientist's partner in crime is an aging
small-time con woman and gambler played by screen legend Bette Davis (with
distractingly green teeth - I can't quite decide if that was make-up put on
for the character or just a sign of very bad oral hygiene on the elderly
After she loses her
brother, Tia falls in with the most ineffective, dorky street gang in LA
history. If these kids ever ran up against the Bloods or the Crips,
they'd be toast. Nonetheless, the gang promises to help Tia find her
brother after she saves them during a very G-rated rumble with another gang of
This leads to a series of
rather strained set pieces - Tony wreaks havoc on a museum! Tia causes
the crash of a van! The baddie tries to use the alien's powers to take
over a nuclear facility! It is all light as a feather and believable
as a politician's promise, but in its own silly Disney-fied way it is kinda
That said, with hindsight
both of these movies are rather slow-moving for the modern child's attention
span. The trailer to the upcoming Race to Witch Mountain show
much more action and many more explosions than either of these more innocent
and stately films, where levitation is a pretty fool-proof weapon against
the worst of bad guys and a flying RV is the height of cool special effects.
The original Witch
Mountain movies have aged - and not overly well. They don't
completely translate into the modern world, but if you grew up loving the
movies, Witch Mountain is still a nice place to visit.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: March 6, 2009.