My grandmother used to record movies for us to watch whenever we had to stay with her for an extended period of time. The Witch Mountain movies were among them. I can’t say that I remember much from the last time I saw them, but do recall the scene where Tony plays his harmonica to levitate the crayon that draws on the mirror. That image has stuck with me over the years.
Escape to Witch Mountain
Released 03/21/1975 Rated: G
We open on Tony and Tia being dropped off at an orphanage due to the recent passing of their caregiver. And right away we know that these siblings are not normal. They have unexplained abilities best kept hidden from the world. Tony can levitate things and clearly see places he’s been, and possibly will be. Tia can communicate telepathically with both Tony and animals alike, and she’s been having recurring dreams that are the key to their unknown past. They’re not at the orphanage long when a man arrives claiming to be their long lost uncle. He takes them home, the place Tony’s been having visions of, where they have every luxury they could possibly want. But the kids know something’s up; their “uncle” and his boss are not good men. And they make a break for it to try to figure out who they are and where they came from.
The majority of the special effects in this movie are practical and they still hold up pretty well today. I have no idea how they made some of that magic happen, but it’s awesome! The CGI effects though, like the flying RV, absolutely do NOT hold up at all. But there’s only a small amount of those, which seem to be clustered toward the end of the movie, so their presence doesn’t ruin the entire film. What I love about this movie (besides the practical effects) is that it doesn’t spend time explaining things to us. We’re in the dark just as much as the kids are and curious as to where they came from.
Return from Witch Mountain
Released 03/10/1978 Rated: R
Taking place years after the first installment, Tony and Tia are dropped off by their Uncle Bene for a week’s vacation. But on their way to the hotel the two siblings get separated. Tony gets kidnapped by Dr Victor Gannon after witnessing Tony’s abilities when he interferes with a test run of Gannon’s latest mind-control invention. He then implants the device on Tony, using him to hold the nearby nuclear power plant hostage until his monetary demands are met. All the while Tia has befriended a local “gang” of children helping her try to find her brother.
The practical effects are once again done very well. The side plots involving the gang of children both trying to act tough and avoiding truant officer Yang, and Victor and Letha’s squabbles over how to most effectively put Tony’s powers to use are silly. I’m not really interested in either plot but they make up the majority of the movie. I find it to be a disappointing sequel. There’s no mystery to it, no real charm, nothing new. You’re not missing anything if you skip it.
Race to Witch Mountain
Released 03/10/2009 Rated: PG
This movie does things backwards which I, personally, think takes away from the story, but this it still works despite that. The story belongs more to the action genre now compared to how the original did mystery. So right off the bat we’re treated to all these clips of UFO sightings and documentation, making sure there is no mystery or uncertainty about these characters. Seth and Sara have come to Earth to retrieve something to stop a takeover of our planet by saving their own. They’re racing against the clock, an assassin from their world out to make sure they fail, and our FBI looking to experiment on them.
I don’t really have much to say about this movie. I enjoyed it more than I did Return from Witch Mountain. Like I said before, it switched genres so it feels completely different. I could have done without all of the abductees swarming the UFO Space Expo, but what are you going to do? I suppose it was appropriate. I liked the idea (not that it’s new) of the government tracking the kids and Witch Mountain being their top secret facility where they researched on them, but it almost feels like they didn’t utilize that arc enough. It was awesome seeing the cameos of the original kids, though. I was sitting there going, “that guy looks familiar.” Sure enough it was the original Tony.