Return from Witch Mountain (1978)


USA. 1978.


Director – John Hough, Screenplay – Malcolm Marmorstein, Producers – Jerome Courtland & Ron Miller, Photography – Frank Phillips, Music – Lalo Schifrin, Special Effects – Art Cruickshank, Danny Lee & Eustace Lycett, Art Direction – John B. Mansbridge & Jack Senter. Production Company – Disney


Ike Eisenmann (Tony Malone), Kim Richards (Tia Malone), Christopher Lee (Dr Victor Gannon), Bette Davis (Letha Wedge), Anthony James (Sickle), Christian Juttner (Dazzler), Brad Savage (Muscles), Poindexter (Crusher), Jeffrey Jacquet (Rocky), Jack Soo (Mr Yokomoto)


Tony and Tia Malone return to Earth from outer space for a holiday. When Tony uses his abilities to stop a man falling from a roof, he is discovered by scientist Victor Gannon. Gannon abducts Tony and uses a mind control device to enslave him. Along with his scheming financier Letha Wedge, Gannon then uses Tony’s powers to rob and steal. Tia falls in with a gang of juvenile delinquents The Earthquake Gang. With their aid, she tries to stop Gannon and Letha and rescue Tony.

Disney’s Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) was not a particularly great affair, although it was a popular hit. Disney then made this sequel. Return from Witch Mountain improves on the original none – it is a formulaic run-through of the juvenile superpowers fantasy, with the added outlandish slapstick special-effects routines that were the mark of the original.

Not much care has been taken to raise the formula. The effects sequences are routine – occasionally spectacular but mostly lacking in the inventiveness that marked the likes of The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), Escape to Witch Mountain or even the then-recent Freaky Friday (1976). The ‘total chaos’ caused in a chase involving exhibits flying around a museum is somewhat less than total. The science that Christopher Lee spouts is drivel and little thinking seems to have gone into plot devices – why store gold bullion in an historical museum instead of a vault, for instance? Indicative of the film is its failure to cut any convincing characterization for its gang of would-be juvenile delinquents – they are merely middle-class children masquerading as jd’s for ‘something to do’. The end where they decide to give up their street life and go back to school is nauseating – and not too surprising coming from Disney whose belief is that that social problems can be solved by simply pointing a better example.

Return from Witch Mountain was one of the films that Christopher Lee made after quitting Hammer horror movies, but he hardly seems to have escaped horror typecasting – the film even bends over to accommodate him with a castle set in Beverly Hills. Bette Davis takes to her role with some glee, getting the choicest one-liners – “How long does it take to count five million dollars?”

Disney continued the saga further in Beyond Witch Mountain (1982), a one-hour tv pilot for a series that never emerged. Eddie Albert repeated his role from this film but the characters of Tony and Tia were played by Andy Freeman and Tracy Gold. The original was later remade as a Disney tv movie Escape to Witch Mountain (1995) and as the big-budget cinematically released Race to Witch Mountain (2009). Star Ike Eisenmann later made a short documentary The Blair Witch Mountain Project (2002) spoofing The Blair Witch Project (1999), wherein a reporter sets out to find out the truth of the events depicted in the film.

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