Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) / Fantasy-Adventure
MPAA Rated: G, suitable for all audiences
Running time: 97 min.
Cast: Kim Richards, Ike Eisenmann, Eddie Albert, Donald Pleasance, Ray Milland
Director: John Hough
Screenplay: Robert M. Young
Review published February 4, 2003
With Harry Potter all the rage these days, it would seem the perfect time to release Escape to Witch Mountain on DVD. After all, they both feature child magicians just learning that they have gifts beyond mere mortals, utilizing these gifts the get themselves out of sticky predicaments through the cleverest of ways. Like Harry Potter, Escape to Witch Mountain has literary origins, based on the book by Alexander Key. Of course, Escape wasn't nearly the national phenomenon when it was released, but it did strike a chord with a decent amount of children out there, enough to spawn a sequel, Return from Witch Mountain.
The two extraordinary orphaned children are Tia (Richards, Assault on Precinct 13) and Tony (Eisenmann, Star Trek II), who have the ability to do such things as move objects with their minds, predict the future, and talk to animals. One day their special abilities catches the eye of a man named Lucas (Pleasance, You Only Live Twice), who works for a wealthy and powerful millionaire, Aristotle Bolt (Milland, Frogs), who is keenly interested in magic and psychic powers. Posing as the children's long-lost uncle, Lucas obtains the kids from the orphanage to live lavishly at Bolt's vast estate. It would seem a good deal for the children, but they can sense the men are no good underneath, and make a getaway to find a location shown in a secret map that might tell them something about their past and what happened to their family.
It's live-action 70s Disney, so it doesn't carry the esteem of the classics and masterpieces of the studio's past films, but Escape to Witch Mountain is certainly likeable enough to be a favorite among kids interested in fantasy films about young people like them with magical abilities. As a movie, it holds up quite well today, perhaps only dated by its special effects, which look tame and very artificial when in comparison to today's big budget blockbusters. For once, they cast children who aren't exceedingly annoying, and even the supporting players, especially Milland and Pleasance as the villains, are cast well.
It probably will never be considered a great classic Disney film, but it's hard to dislike, with a good sense of fun and adventure throughout. If you can look past the antiquated visuals and the lengthy chase scenes, more than enough entertainment is delivered to make this worthwhile viewing for the entire family.
©2003 Vince Leo