Escape to Witch Mountain: Special Edition
March 25, 2009
One of the good things to come from the release of Race to Witch Mountain (2009) is that Disney has gone into their vaults and given the original and much beloved children’s classic Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) the special edition treatment. Disney, at the time, was not known for producing quality live-action films but this was one of those rare exceptions.
Tia (Richards) and Tony’s (Eisenmann) foster parents have recently died and the two children have been taken to an orphanage where they come into conflict with a boy who’s bullying behaviour provokes them to reveal their special abilities. They can communicate with each other telepathically and he can move objects with his mind while she can see into the immediate future.
Aristotle Bolt (Milland) and his henchman Deranian (Pleasence) become very interested in Tia and Tony and exploiting their abilities. So, Deranian poses as their uncle and adopts the children. Bolt dazzles them with his affluent lifestyle. However, Tony and Tia discover that Bolt is not the nice guy he appears to be and they escape. The children cross paths with a man named Jason (Albert) who is traveling across the country in his RV. He’s got a gruff exterior and doesn’t like kids but underneath he’s an ol’ softie who ends up helping Tony and Tia find their true home.
The two child actors – Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann – are excellent and do a good job selling their otherworldly abilities. They come across as smart, inquisitive kids who try to find out where they came from. It also doesn’t hurt that they have excellent chemistry with veteran character actor Eddie Albert. At first, Jason seems wary and guarded with everyone but he warms up to the children and helps them in their quest. Genre veteran Donald Pleasence gives a suitable amount of creepy menace to his villainous role.
Ultimately, Escape to Witch Mountain is an exciting and entertaining science fiction adventure mixed with a road movie but for children. For those who grew up with this film, this DVD will provide nostalgic memories of simpler times. The film has never looked better and has stood the test of time.
There is an audio commentary by director John Hough and actors Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann. Hough says that this film was his second Hollywood motion picture. He managed to shoot most of it on location and as realistically as possible. Eisenmann and Richards have a lot of fun watching their younger selves and tell some entertaining anecdotes about making the film. It had always been a dream of Hough’s to make a film for Disney and he enjoyed the experience.
“Making the Escape” is a retrospective look at the film. Disney wanted something a little grittier and liked Hough’s previous film, The Legend of Hell House (1973) and hired him. Eisenmann and Richards speak admiringly of working Hough. They also give their impressions of working with Eddie Albert, Donald Pleasence and Ray Milland. Eisenmann and Richards say that they looked up to Albert as a father figure.
“Conversations with John Hough” features the filmmaker imparting advice to aspiring film directors. He attributes his success in the industry with his passion for filmmaking. His goal was to have a long career and make all kinds of films.
“Disney Sci-Fi” is a montage of Disney films with science fiction elements in them, including the likes of Tron (1982) and The Rocketeer (1991).
“Disney Effects, Something Special” takes a look at the visual effects in Disney films with Harrison Ellenshaw who worked on Tron. He points out that the studio had a history of effects-heavy films starting with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). This featurette points out several effects are achieved with examples from the studio’s films.
“1975 Disney Studio Album” features a montage of Disney films that came out that year along with attractions that opened in Disney World.
“Pluto’s Dream House” is a classic Disney animated short film featuring Mickey Mouse’s dog Pluto.
Finally, there are “Pop-Up Fun Facts,” which allows you to watch the film with trivial factoids pertaining to the film appearing on-screen.