Tuesday, March 31, 2009

ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN / RETURN FROM WITCH MOUNTAIN

With Disney’s RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN in theaters (is it still?) the studio finds itself required to re-release the original WITCH MOUNTAIN films on DVD as part of their (very blandly packaged) "Walt Disney Family Classics" line.

If you never saw these perennial Disney favorites before, here’s the basics: two blond pre-teen orphans with mysterious mental abilities (including telepathy and telekinesis), Tony (Ike Eisenmann, THE FANTASTIC JOURNEY) and Tia (Kim Richards, TUFF TURF), search for the truth about their origins while trying to elude various criminals intent on exploiting the kids’ powers. In the first film, ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN (1975), millionaire Ray Milland (X- THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES) is after the kids, while in the second, 1978's RETURN FROM WITCH MOUNTAIN, Christopher Lee (HORROR OF DRACULA) and Bette Davis (BURNT OFFERINGS) have their greedy hearts set on controlling Tony’s TK talents.

Directed by John Hough (THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY), both films feature primitive 70’s special effects and a certain flat, TV look, yet the stories and characters are still quite engaging, both for nostalgic adults and young children. My young niece and nephew, despite being raised on today’s flashy CGI-heavy fantasy flicks and video games, loved the movies, watching them so many times my sister begged me to take the disc back.

Both films have been released on DVD before, first in bonus-laden special editions some years ago and then as a bare-bones double feature disc in 2006. These new releases include all the extras from the original release, plus all new pop-up trivia subtitles. Both films are presented in their original 1.75:1 theatrical aspect ratios and are anamorphic. Both films include commentary tracks, behind the scenes featurettes, music video montages, and other Disney-styled features. My favorite is on the RETURN disc, an interview with Christopher Lee promoting the film in Italy, where we see the veteran screen heavy demonstrating his mastery of Italian! It’s a great bit.

If you haven’t got these wonderful family adventure flicks already, you certainly should. Recommended.

BUY: Escape to Witch Mountain Special Edition

BUY: Return from Witch Mountain Special Edition