ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN (director: John Hough; screenwriters: Robert Malcolm Young/based on the novel by Alexander Key; cinematographer: Frank Phillips; editor: Robert Stafford; music: Johnny Mandel; cast: Ike Eisenmann (Tony Malone), Kim Richards (Tia Malone), Eddie Albert (Jason O’Day), Donald Pleasence (Lucas Derenian), Ray Milland (Aristotle Bolt), Denver Pyle (Uncle Bene); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Jerome Courtland; Walt Disney Home Video; 1975)
“I didn’t feel its magic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
John Hough (“Black Arrow”/”Return from Witch Mountain”/”Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry”) directs this children’s pic from Disney studio, that’s set around Monterey, California. It’s based on the book by Alexander Key and written by Robert Malcolm Young.
The simple plot has two adolescent orphans, Tony (Ike Eisenmann) and his sister Tia Malone (Kim Richards), placed in a new school after the death of their foster parents. They possess extra-terrestrial powers, but suffer from amnesia about their past. Proof of their clairvoyance comes when Tia warns Lucas Derenian (Donald Pleasence), henchman of eccentric millionaire Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland), not to get into his car just in the nick of time before a truck crashes into it. The unscrupulous Bolt sees an opportunity to exploit their supernatural powers and increase his wealth and become godlike, and he thereby takes out custodianship papers on them. This sidetracks them in their search for their origins, as the kiddies are held in the mansion against their will but refuse to use their powers for their captor’s evil purposes. Eventually they escape by using their powers and receive help from a grizzled and cranky old bachelor, Jason O’Day (Eddie Albert ), and go with him in his RV on a cross-country journey while chased by the tycoon. The kids are mysteriously drawn to Witch Mountain, as the RV is transformed into a spaceship to take them there. That spot seems to hold secrets about their alien past and information about their parents.
Maybe kids will find this fantasy escapist sci-fi to their liking, but I didn’t feel its magic. It suffers from a lame screenplay, tepid special effects, not too much excitement and an over-the-top Milland.
Hough also directed the 1978 sequel, “Return from Witch Mountain.”
REVIEWED ON 9/22/2008 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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