I absolutely loved Escape to Witch Mountain as a child, so I was pretty excited when I heard it was being released on DVD again. The release is undoubtedly timed to coincide with the remake, Race to Witch Mountain starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Alexander Ludwig and AnnaSophia Robb. Judging by the trailer, the remake has much more frenetic action and a boatload of special effects when compared to the original. However, the original Escape to Witch Mountain should still be able to hold the interest of youngsters today and provide a nice trip down memory lane for their parents. On top of that, if you purchase this DVD, you’ll get a free movie ticket (up to $12 value) to see the remake.

Escape to Witch MountainIke Eisenmann plays Tony Malone and Kim Richards (Nanny and the Professor) his sister, Tia, whose powers include clairvoyance, anti-gravity levitation, the ability to communicate with animals, and telekinesis–the latter of which is often performed with the help of a harmonica. These two kids are living at an orphanage, so when they make Winnebago’s fly and objects levitate, it’s just enough to make you believe these kids just might be from another planet.
When Lucas Deranian (Donald Pleasence), discovers the children’s powers, his very wealthy boss Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland) wants to know more; convinced there’s a way to profit from the children’s power of clairvoyance. He brings the kids to his home and spoils them rotten. However, Tony and Tia both suspect something is up and soon make their escape. They are quickly befriended by a kindly widower (Eddie Albert), who allows them to stow-away in his Winnebago. With Tia’s map to guide them, the threesome set out on a journey to find anyone who might know or remember Tony and Tia parents.
Escape to Witch Mountain is really the ultimate kid’s fantasy. What kid doesn’t powers that would allow them to levitate, control animals and make puppets dance. I know I did. Further, doesn’t every kid fantasize about being given everything they want? When Deranian shows up at the orphanage with papers that “prove” he’s their uncle and should have custody of them, they are given an entire bedroom complex that includes a a puppet-show stage, ice cream parlor, and all manner of toys.
Director John Hough (TV’s The Avengers), shot the film mostly on location, mostly along the California coast. That decision makes the movie very picturesque and pretty to look at. As the Winnebago moves along, there are lovely shots of various forests and nice views of the Pacific Ocean. The adult cast, led by show business veterans Donald Pleasence, Ray Milland and Eddie Albert all bring professionalism to their roles that make veteran television writer, Robert M. Young’s script truly shine.
Viewed today, the pace of Escape to Witch Mountain is rather slow but deliberate. While some of the special effects are laughable, it doesn’t take away from the joy of the film. Much of it still works as it needs to, such as when Tony makes a catcher’s glove turn into a fist to give a punch to a bully – yeah, you can see the wires if you really look for them but where’s the fun in that? 34 years after it opened, this remains a charming family film.
For a catalog title, Escape to Witch Mountain looks great digitally mastered, presented in 1.75:1 widescreen and enhanced for 16×9 television sets. Colors are natural, and you hardly notice the grain except in a few scenes. Good job.
Audio options are English or French Dolby Digital 5.1, with Spanish and French subtitles. It’s an excellent soundtrack that features a bass that tries to break the bonds of flatness that plague many soundtracks from this decade. You might have to turn the volume up higher than usual, though, because it’s recorded on a lower level.
A making-of feature shows the director, his two young stars now grown up, and Dermott Downs, who played the kid-bully Truck. The feature is jam-packed with photos and nice vintage video clips (including the Disney studios back lot and shots of Jodie Foster), and there’s a nice discussion about the book, the script, and the eventual movie. It’s probably one of the best making-of features I’ve seen in a long time, because producer-writer Mark Young avoided the easy route of just mixing talking heads with clips from the movie. There was some real research involved here, and the proof is in this 25-minute feature. We even see some of the special effects in behind-the-scenes footage and drawings of some of the models. Great stuff!
The commentary with Hough and his two now-grown stars is also engaging. Skip over “Disney Sci-Fi,” which is a just over two-minute clip montage from Disney Sci-Fi live action, set to cheesy music. A “1975 Disney Studio Album” is the same thing, but showing clips (including audio) from Disney live-action films from the ’70s. Better are the outtakes from Hough’s interview for the making-of feature, in which he offers all sorts of advice for would-be writers and filmmakers.
Rounding out the bonus features is “Pluto’s Dream House,” a House of Mouse cartoon.
Check out a clip from the film below: