Based upon the book by Alexander Key, ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN follows two orphan children, Tia and Tony Malone (Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann), as they move into a new orphanage. Tia and Tony have a very strong and close relationship with each other. Tia and Tony are very polite and respectful and adults adore them. However, even though they get along with the other children at the orphanage, most everyone thinks they are strange and the siblings tend to stick to themselves. They have a very specific reason for doing this: Tia and Tony have supernatural powers. Tia can speak to Tony telepathically, is able to levitate objects, can speak to animals, and is able to see future events. Tony can levitate objects, too, but he has to play a harmonica to be able to do it. Tia is definitely the more powerful of the siblings. Neither Tony or Tia remember anything from their early childhood, but Tia begins to slowly remember a sequence of past events a little bit at a time during throughout the movie.
On a fieldtrip into town, Tia has an image of a man being severely injured in a car accident. They speak to the man and warn him to not get into his car and then get back on the school bus. The man decides to not enter the car and minutes later a truck smashes into his car. The man, Lucas Deranian (Donald Pleasence) is impressed by what he witnesses and reports to his boss, Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland), that he believes he's found what they've been looking for. Bolt intends to use the children to assist him in his money-making schemes and sends Deranian to the orphanage posing as their long lost uncle so that he can "adopt" them. Upon arriving at Bolt's lavish estate, the children are swept over by emotions of happiness and joy. Everything they have ever desired is within their command. But when they learn how Bolt intends to use them as psychic slaves for his personal gain, they escape. They end up hiding in the Winnebago of a grumpy, childless widower named Jason O'Day (Eddie Albert). At first he is against helping them, but quickly comes around and decides to help the children escape from Bolt and deliver them safely to the destination they are ultimately directed: Witch Mountain.
ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUTAIN is a fairly entertaining movie that is most notable for its strong cast and entertaining and fairly believable story-line. STAR WARS was still a few years away, but in 1975 sci-fi was beginning to morph from being a bizarre and foolish past time into a legitimate genre of literature and film. ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN is a great movie that illustrates that. Set in what was then the present-day, the movie provides a realistic setting and tone that is stripped of most of the fantastical elements common in much sci-fi of the time. The movie has a delightful cast of actors that do a wonderful job in making their characters believable. Some of the special effects look rather cheesy by today's standards. However, considering there was no CGI and all of the effects were done by traditional methods, most of the effects shots are rather impressive.
The only major drawback about the film that I have is the dialogue. I'm not sure if it was because Tia and Tony were aliens, but they way they speak to each other is not the way kids usually speak with one another. The word choice and pacing are completely off and instead of seeming unusual, much of their dialogue is just plain cheesy. This usually isn't such a big deal in movies, but in all other aspects ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN is an excellent sci-fi movie, but the dialogue really weighs it down at points.
I enjoyed ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN. I recommend it for anyone who saw the movie in the past, people who enjoy good & realistic based sci-fi, anyone who has read the book, and children in general.
The special edition DVD includes several extras including an audio commentary with director John Hughes and stars Richards and Eisenmann, pop-up fan facts feature during the movie, a conversation with director John Hughes, a featurette entitled "Making the Escape", a Disney sci-fi movie montage entitled "Disney Sci-Fi", a featurette about effects at Walt Disney entitled "Disney Effects, Something Special", the 1975 Disney Studio Album, and a short cartoon featuring Pluto and Mickey entitled "Pluto's Dream House".
Out of all the special features I most enjoyed "Making the Escape", "Disney Effects, Something Special", and "Pluto's Dream House." "Making the Escape" is basically a usual making-of featurette, however because of the personalities of the main players interviewed I actually found it kind of riveting. "Disney Effects, Something Special" was really interesting because not only did it describe how some of the effects were done in ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, but it gave some history about special effects at Disney. Disney was known for their animation and nature films by most people, but the studio also had an incredibly special effects department that pulled off some amazing effects and stunts that other studios would never attempt to do or not do well. "Pluto's Dream House" was a short I saw a few times as a kid. Mickey is building a new dog house for Pluto when he uncovers a magic lamp that begins helping build the house. Of course, any time that Mickey gets involved with Magic you know it's trouble.
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A vehicle floats in midair a coat rack comes to life and attacks a sheriff and wild animals are putty in the hands of Tony and Tia Malone in Disney's thrilling fantasy adventure about the psychic powers of two young orphans. Their clairvoyance prompts evil millionaire Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland) to lure them to his mansion to exploit their powers. While escaping, they meet a friendly campter (Eddie Albert) and begin to unravel the mystery of their origin. Soon, all three are fleeing townspeople who have branded the children witches but then IT happens! Someone with even greater powers takes over and leads the children and the audience into a dazzling and unexpected experience one that is truly out of this world! The film was shot around Monterey and Palo Alto, California, including a Victorian mansion at Menlo Park that served as the Pine Woods Orphanage.
Bonus features: All-New Pop-Up Fun Facts Making The Escape Conversations With John Hough Disney Sci-Fi Pluto's Dream House Disney Effects Something Special 1975 Disney Studio Album Audio Commentary