J.D. Lafrance
Return from Witch Mountain: Special Edition DVD Review

Return from Witch Mountain: Special Edition

March 30, 2009

Director: John Hough,
Starring: Bette Davis, Christopher Lee, Kim Richards, Ike Eisenmann, Jack Soo, Anthony James, Dick Bakalyan,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

With the success of Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) a sequel was inevitable and three years later it became a reality with Return from Witch Mountain (1978). Tony (Eisenmann) and Tia (Richards) return to Earth to experience life in a big city. They beam down in the middle of the Rose Bowl no less and take a taxi into the city of Los Angeles. Meanwhile, a man named Victor (Lee) has devised technology that allows him to control people’s mind. Tony stumbles across one of Victor’s “experiments” and interferes in a way that exposes his otherworldly abilities. Victor, his partner Letha (Davis) and their henchman Sickle (James) kidnap Tony so that they can study and figure out a way to exploit his powers. While searching for her brother, Tia encounters a group of street kids known as the Earthquake Gang. They help her find Tony and survive the mean streets of L.A. (well, as mean as they can get in a Disney film). Pretty soon Victor and Letha use their technology to control Tony’s mind.

Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann along with director John Hough return for this delightful sequel to Escape to Witch Mountain. Barney Miller’s Jack Soo also stars as a truant officer who ends up helping Tia find Tony and provides some classic comic relief with his deadpan style. This time around, legendary actors Bette Davis and Christopher Lee play the film’s villains and they provide just the right amount of menace. As always, Christopher Lee imbues just the right amount of menace to his character.

Where Escape to Witch Mountain was a road movie that took place in the countryside, for Return from Witch Mountain, Hough sets what is essentially a chase film in an urban area complete with a suitably groovy score by Lalo Schifrin that sounds like it came from a 1970s cop show. Return is sorely missing the presence of Eddie Albert from the first film but Jack Soo does a fine job as the kids’ adult guardian of sorts. As far sequels go, this one is pretty good and is not just a formulaic repeat of Escape.

Special Features:

There is an audio commentary by director John Hough and actors Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards. Eisenmann and Richards share their experiences making the film and joke about their costumes and hairstyles. Hough explains, that like with Escape, he insisted on shooting on location wherever possible and this included the streets of L.A. He gives his impressions of working with Bette Davis and Christopher Lee on this solid track.

“Making the Return Trip” takes a retrospective look at how the film came together with key cast and crew members reminiscing about making it. Eisenmann tells a funny anecdote about Davis and her entourage. Various aspects, like shooting on location and the visual effects, are also covered.

“Lost Treasure: Christopher Lee, the lost interview” was conducted with a Spanish journalist while promoting Return. He speaks fluent Spanish and talks about his character and shows clips from the film.

“Disney Kids with Powers” is a montage of clips from various Disney films of kids doing extraordinary things.

“The Gang’s Back in Town” reunited three out of four of the actors who played the Earthquake Gang in Return. They talk about what they’re doing now and share some of their memories of making the film.

“1978 Disney Studio Album” is a montage of clips from that films that Disney released that year.

“The Eyes Have It” is a vintage Donald Duck animated short film which sees Donald trying to learn how to be a hypnotist and putting the zap on poor Pluto.

Finally, there are “Pop-Up Fun Facts” which allows you to watch the film with trivial factoids frequently appearing on-screen.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 80%



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