REVIEW REWIND: The Witch Mountain Movies
Although I didn't originally plan to watch the first two Witch Mountain movies on my watch list just yet, I thought it would be fun to watch them all together. So, today we will look at Escape To Witch Mountain (1975), Return From Witch Mountain (1978) and Race To Witch Mountain (2009)! I did not include any of the movie versions as they are not available on Disney+.
The movies are based on a novel written by Alexander Key. Interestingly enough, Disney produced a sequel novel for the release of Return From Witch Mountain which was also written by Key based on the script from the movie.
The first movie is Escape To Witch Mountain. We are introduced to Tony (Ike Eisenmann) and Tia (Kim Richards) Malone who are being delivered to an orphanage. They can't remember anything about their lives before their adoptive parents, but Tia has bits and flashes. Whatever the case might be, the kids seem to display some telekinetic and telepathic powers. One day, they save the life of attorney Lucas Deranian (Donald Pleasence).
Deranian relealizes the kids have special powers and tells his boss, the wealthy Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland), who decides to kidnap the kids for his own personal gain. While the kids are treated well, they also realize they are being held prisoner and decide to escape. They meet a crotchety old traveler named Jason O'Day (Eddie Albert) who begrudgingly agrees to help them. They realize that they must somehow escape to Witch Moutain (see what I did there). It's an all out man hunt as they make their way there. It's there that Tony and Tia find their origins.
Return From Witch Mountain sees Tony and Tia return from...well, you get it. Kindly Uncle Bené (Denver Pyle) drops them off in Los Angeles for a weekend of fun. On the way to their destination, Tony senses an impending death and decides to go help. It turns out that scientist Dr. Victor Gannon (Christopher Lee) and his benefactor Letha Wedge (Bette Davis) are doing an experiment which goes wrong. Tony ends up using his telekinesis to rescue Wedge's nephew Sickle (Anthony James) and Gannon realizes the kind of power he could have at his fingertips if he could control Tony. So, Gannon and Letha kidnap him, leaving Tia alone.
Tia ends up hooking up with a "gang" called the Earthquakes who decide to offer Tia lodging and help to find her brother. The group scour the city while Letha decides to take Tony out to make some money using his powers. This attracts Tia's attention and they find Tony, but don't know why he isn't responding to Tia.
Letha and Gannon then turn their attention to stealing plutonium. It's at the plant where there is a confrontation between brother and sister. Who will win? Will they ever return TO Witch Mountain?
The third movie, Race To Witch Mountain, is more of a reimagining of the first movie. Instead of Tony and Tia, we are introduced to Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig) who, unlike Tony and Tia, know they are aliens from the get go. They are being hunted by Henry Burke (Ciarán Hinds) from the Department of Defense. Sara and Seth then begrudgingly gets the help of crotchety cab driver Jack Munroe (Dwayne Johnson) who bring them to a cabin the middle of nowhere. Instead of just leaving him there, he is concerned for them and follows them in. It's there that he finds out who the kids are. They are from another planet to prove that they can replicate Earth's atmosphere on their dying planet. However, there is a Siphon, a monstrous creature, hunting them as well.
Munroe decides to get help from Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino), a fare he had that has done extensive research on UFOs. They are all chased as they try to get Seth and Sara to their space ship which they realize is in Witch Mountain.
I was nervous to watch the first two films because they were so meaningful to me as a youth. I remember wanting to have their powers. The puppet show and the coat man attacking the sheriff were pure magic to me. But, Disney movies from the 1970s either held up or make me question my sanity as a youngster. Thankfully, I can say that Escape To Witch Mountain still holds up to me. It's a fun adventure and a great mystery to figure out who and what Tony and Tia are. Eisenmann and Richards are adorable as Tony and Tia and Pleasance and Milland are excellent as villains. And, Albert is that kind of person you wish were your grandfather.
I wish I could say as much for Return From Witch Mountain which does not hold up at all. It's interesting that the kids we had seen three years earlier seemed more mature than the ones in this movie. Everything just seems so much more juvenile in this film. The "gang" with the heart of gold seemed too young to be hanging out with Tia. Even Lee and Davis, both amazing actors, seemed to just phone it in. Like they were asking themselves why their agents got them this gig.
As for the third movie, I actually thought it was fun. It's not the first movie, but there was enough to differentiate it. Instead of being a mystery movie, this one is all out action adventure science fiction movie. And, let's face it. Race To Witch Mountain really is more about its star - Dwayne Johnson. It's fun to see him looking so young with hair. And the film has some fun cameos. Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann both return, but in different roles. Richards is waitress Tina and Eisenmann is Sheriff Antony who both aid Seth, Sara and Jack. And, in a surprising cameo, Meredith Salenger reprises her role as Natalie Gann, but as a reporter in this reality.
I would love for them to go back to Witch Mountain, one day, and actually re-adapt Key's novel once again. I think these movies read better as mysteries. But, I do have to admit I had fun with the last movie.