Plot: What’s it about?
Tia (Kim Richards) and her brother Tony (Ike Eisenmann) are orphans, but no one is sure where their previous home was. The two look like normal children, but there is a mysterious presence that surrounds them at all times. This is because Tia and Tony are not normal children, at least not in one special part of their lives. They love to play, make friends, and have fun, but they have special powers the other children lack. The siblings both possess immense psychic abilities, including telepathy, telekinesis, and visions of events before they unfold. As you can imagine, this causes them some social problems, as people are either scared of the children, or assume they have an evil side. When Tia warns Lucas Derenian (Donald Pleasance) not to get into his boss’ car, he is hesitant to believe her. But then a truck smashes into his car, an accident which would have killed him and right then, he is made into a believer. Derenian tells his boss, the filthy rich Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland) about the unique powers of the children and Bolt quickly takes custody of them, to use them for his own gain. But when he instructs them to put their powers to use, they refuse to do so and plan an escape. The two manage to sneak out, but with the entire town hot on their heels, can they make it to Witch Mountain and uncover their true home?
Disney’s main cinematic income has always been their animated division, which produced numerous smash hits. Not just box office success either, as films like Bambi, The Lion King, and Fantasia become staples in family entertainment. But their success with live action hasn’t been as consistent, even though some gems have been released. One such gem is Escape to Witch Mountain, which is a pleasure to revisit in this new release. All of the usual knocks on Disney’s live action output can be found here, but for some reason, the elements just seem to fall into place for Escape to Witch Mountain. The premise is thin and rehashed, but the slight swerves are enough to keep things fresh, though the material is quite dated now. As much as I often dismiss family aimed entertainment, because of its overly cutesy, cheese laden texture, I’ve always liked this movie, even though it suffers from those same flaws. This is just a fun adventure to take, with action, emotion, and even some magic tossed in. The kids aren’t as annoying as you might expect, while the gifted adult cast provides more than solid performances. You can’t deny the dated, sometimes cornball nature of this movie, but even so, its a well made, fun picture. As such, I am able to more than recommend Escape to Witch Mountain, especially in this fine Special Edition.
Video: How does it look?
Escape to Witch Mountain is presented in 1.75:1 anamorphic widescreen. Its good to see Disney giving us proper widescreen treatments, as some of their previous live action catalog titles were only available in lackluster full frame editions. This is a great looking transfer too, with a clean source print that is sure to delight fans. I saw some slight grain and debris, but nothing serious and this print looks excellent. I was also pleased to note only minimal softness at worst, which means the visuals are crisp and pleasant. I found colors to be bright and bold, with only minor fades evident, while contrast is smooth and consistent. All in all, a terrific presentation that provides the film’s best home video treatment to date.
Audio: How does it sound?
A new Dolby Digital 5.1 option is also found here, which provides a better overall experience than expected. As you should expect, this movie is not a treasure trove of dynamic audio, but this new remix does have some punch at times. The surrounds are used to enhance atmosphere, as well as supply an extra kick of power in some scenes. The results are by no means overly impressive, but for the material involved, this is a fine remix. There is a thin texture to the audio, but that is due to the age and nature of the movie, not this new soundtrack. The music sounds good and makes use of the surrounds too, while dialogue remains clean and audible throughout. This disc also includes English subtitles, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
An audio commentary starts us off, as director John Hough and stars Kim Richards & Ike Eisenmann share their memories. Hough focuses on the technical side of the production, while the stars provide more personal takes on the experience. This session is decent, but expect a light, brisk tone and not a refined, highly informative track. Making the Escape runs about half an hour and offers a nice overview on the production. This piece includes interviews with the cast and crew, including some discussion of the film’s special effects. This disc also includes a special effects featurette, an interview with Hough, an extensive selection of still photos, promotional materials, and ad artwork, as well as the animated short Pluto’s Dream House.