Alien kids with psychic powers, Tony (Ike Eisenmann) and Tia (Kim Richards), come to Los Angeles, California, for a vacation. After he is seen using his powers, Tony is kidnapped by an unscrupulous scientist (Christopher Lee, House of Dracula) and his greedy sidekick (Bette Davis), who want to exploit the boy’s abilities.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“That’s why I like science. They’re always discovering new expensive things.”
Escape to Witch Mountain (1974) was a surprise hit for The Walt Disney Corporation. Never one to pass up an opportunity to make an extra buck, Disney decreed that the success of the 1974 movie demanded a sequel. Malcolm Marmorstein, who had written the studio’s popular Pete’s Dragon the year before, came up with Return from Witch Mountain, which I ended up enjoying far more than I anticipated.
The film continues the saga of extraterrestrial siblings with telekinesis powers, Tony and Tia. While Return from Witch Mountain isn’t half as interesting as the slightly dark Escape to Witch Mountain, the admittedly goofier sequel felt tidier than its predecessor — the simple narrative moves along at an entertaining pace.
As he did with Escape to Witch Mountain, director John Hough (The Legend of Hell House) does his darn best to keep things from getting too cute. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the visual effects were a tad better the second time around. While the optical effects are still nowhere near the level of Mary Poppins (1964), the illusions are good enough. Lalo Schifrin’s (Dirty Harry) music score is good too.
Additionally, veterans Bette Davis and Christopher Lee inject credibility into many silly situations. Lee is genuinely creepy as the “mad scientist” who wants to use the kids for his own nefarious purposes. It’s as if no one bothered to tell him that this was a Disney flick — Lee’s imposing 6’5″ frame and potent voice tower over all others in the film.
Lee has a nice rapport with Davis — in many interviews Lee said that he got along great with the legendary actress. Unlike Lee, Davis places her tongue into her cheek. She seems to be enjoying herself — Davis provides plenty of giggles as Lee’s greedy partner-in-crime. Child actors Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards are as likable as ever. Anthony James (In the Heat of the Night) has a few good moments as Davis’s shady nephew.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Return from Witch Mountain may not have quite the amount of cheerleaders Escape to Witch Mountain has, but I liked it. The film is much lighter than its predecessor, but I don’t really see that as a negative. The kids were great, and it was a lot of fun seeing heavyweight champions Bette Davis and Sir Christopher Lee together in a movie aimed at children. Followed by a short-lived TV series. Color, 94 minutes, Rated G.