In the 1970s, Disney released a lot of live-action movies. Some of them were memorable, but most of them were forgettable. But for every Scandalous John or The Million Dollar Duck, or The Biscuit Eater, there is a Bedknobs and Broomsticks or The World’s Greatest Athlete or The Apple Dumpling Gang. However, perhaps the most beloved family classic from Disney during this time was Escape to Witch Mountain. And with a new Race To Witch Mountain, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, currently appearing in a theater near you, it’s only natural that Walt Disney Home Entertainment would re-release this family classic and its sequel on new special edition DVDs.
In Escape To Witch Mountain, Tony and Tia Malone (Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards, respectively) are arriving at their new home following the death of their adoptive parents. They have various mental abilities, including clairvoyance, levitation, telekinesis (with the help of a harmonica), molecular reconstruction, and the ability to communicate with animal. They keep these powers themselves for fear of being labeled as outcasts. One day, Tia has a vision that saves Lucas Deranian (Donald Pleasance) from a terrible car accident. Deranian and his boss, the mega-rich Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland) have been searching for such kids, and they move in, manipulating paperwork to gain custody of Tony and Tia. Luckily, the kids catch on, and escape and end up hiding in a Winnebago camper driven by a crusty old widower named Jason O’Day (Eddie Albert). The trio then flee into the woods upon the discovery of a map leading to a nearby
For a Disney film, the script isn’t that bad, but it’s not that great either. The story does start to lose some steam towards the end, but overall this a good mystery/action/comedy film. But what helps immensly is the comedy is not forced or caused by the wacky antics of a stupid villain. Most of the laughs are as a result of the children’s stunts, like when they break out of jail. Some of the best moments are watching these kids outsmart everyone. Surprisingly, the visual effects hold up; no computers needed for this film as most special effects are good enough to keep the film moving. There is only one instance, towards the end of the film, where you would consider any of these effects as being so awful and laughable. That being said, you won’t be “wowed” by anything you will see during this film. It will be fun to compare this film to the many CGI-special effects used in the new Race To Witch Mountain film.
What makes this film really work is the likable cast and a story that kids can relate to. The leading starring kids, Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards are charismatic and easy to root for. The villains are also intriguing in their own ways. About the only weak spot is Eddie Albert’s performance. He does a good enough job that he doesn’t hurt the whole film, but he often times just seems to be “going through the motions”. But again what kid growing up didn’t want to have the same “super powers” that these kids have in this film.
While most of Disney’s films from this era were filled with silliness and wacky comedic villians, Escape to Witch Mountain had this unique sci-fi feel that the whole family could love. If this is the first time watching this film, you probably won’t love this film. But if you consider the era this film came from, you will be impressed by many things in this film. Today’s kids may enjoy the new Race to Witch Mountain more for all of its CGI-special effects and non-stop action, but there is no better way to prepare for that film by watching the original. This film is easily worth a rental for every family out there.
The video included is available in 1.75:1 anamorphic widescreen color, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs. The quality is better than you would expect for a 30-year-old film. There is little grain to be found in this film. Colors and detail are bright and solid.
The audio included is available in either English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound, or French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear, so no major problems here either. The audio quality is not as great as the video quality, but about as good as you can expect for the film’s age.
Audio Commentary –
There is a full-length audio commentary with the director, John Hough, and a grown-up Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann. These were recorded separately and edited together, which cuts down on dead air. Everyone provides a lot of information on this film. Not as entertaining as other director/cast commentaries, but solid nonetheless.
“Pop-Up Fun Facts” Commentary Track –
This is a new option to watch the film with facts popping up throughout the film in little boxes. This shares a number of tidbits about onscreen actors and their other credits. A good addition, but nothing special.
“Making the Escape” Featurette –
This runs 26 minutes and it’s a comprehensive “making-of” featurette featuring retrospective interviews from Eisenmann, Richards, Hough and co-star Dermott Downs. Not as much of a “fluff” piece as you would expect, but nothing special either.
“Conversations With John Hough” Featurette –
This is a general 7 minute chat with director, John Hough, about his career other than Witch Mountain.
“Disney Effects: Something Special” Featurette –
This runs 11 minutes and it’s also not Witch Mountain-specific. There is various engaging interviews with Disney effects artists, chatting about the studio’s effects history.
“Disney Sci-Fi” Featurette –
This runs 3 minutes and it’s a techno music video montage of various Disney sci-fi films, with a couple Touchstone pictures thrown in as well.
“1975 Disney Studio Album” –
This is a three-and-a-half-minute taste of Disney’s projects and achievements from 1975.
“Pluto’s Dream House” Cartoon
This is a 8-minute animated short that originally preceded Escape to Witch Mountain in theaters.
Escape to Witch Mountain is a great family film from the 1970s. It has become a beloved Disney classic for a reason, and it’s really “must-watch” material before watching the new Race to Witch Mountain film. If you are a parent, this film should be in your DVD collection. However, there really isn’t much difference with this edition’s DVD to the 2003 Special Edition. If you own that, you really don’t this since there is only one added “extra” and it’s not worth upgrading for. You can get Hollywood Movie Money for the new Race to Witch Mountain movie, though, so that might be worth it for some.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Escape To Witch Mountain/i>. Directed by John Hough. Written by Robert Malcolm Young (screenplay) and Alexander Key (book). Starring Kim Richards, Ike Eisenmann, Eddie Albert, Ray Milland, Donald Pleasance, and Denver Pyle. Running time: 97 minutes. Rated G. Released on DVD: March 10, 2009.
Available at Amazon.com
Tags: The Rock