Film: Escape to Witch Mountain

Escape to Witch Mountain is a 1975 film starring Kim Richards, Ike Eisenmann, Ray Milland, and Donald Pleasence, directed by John Hough. It is the Film of the Book of the same name, about siblings Tony and Tia Malone (Eisenmann and Richards). We are introduced to them as they are admitted to an orphanage/school. They have no memory of where they came from before they were placed in foster care, and try to conceal the fact that they have Psychic Powers. When Tia sees an accident before it happens it draws the attention of a wealthy businessman, Mr. Bolt (Milland), who wants to exploit the siblings' powers. They try to remember where they came from, guided by Tia's "star case", a leather box on a strap with a curious double star design on the lid, which she has had as long as she can remember, and which contains a hidden map to a place called Witch Mountain.

Tony and Tia must escape from Mr. Bolt's compound and travel to Witch Mountain in an attempt to find out where they came from. Along the way they enlist the help of an old drifter to conceal them as Mr. Bolt uses his influence to track them down.

In 1978 a sequel, Return from Witch Mountain, was released. This film brought back Richards and Eisenmann. Tony and Tia take a vacation with their uncle, but they get separated from each other at the Rose Bowl stadium. Tony winds up using his psychic powers, and this is witnessed by evil scientist Dr. Victor Gannon (Christopher Lee) and his assistant Letha Wedge (Bette Davis). Dr. Gannon kidnaps Tony and turns him into a hypnotized servant doing Gannon's evil bidding. Tia has to use her psychic powers to find and rescue her brother. Jack Soo of Barney Miller stars as Mr. Yamamoto the truant officer.

A remake called Race to Witch Mountain, starring Dwayne Johnson, was released in 2009. Nearly 40 years after Escape to Witch Mountain, Richards appeared as one of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Tropes seen in Escape To Witch Mountain:

  • Adaptation Personality Change: The owner of the orphanage in this movie was a kindly older lady while in the book, it was more of a home for orphaned juvenile delinquents run by a former police woman who took no gruff from anyone.
  • Alien Among Us: What Tony and Tia turn out to be.
  • Animated Credits Opening: The credits show the silhouettes of the children running while being chased by white outlines of barking dogs.
  • Bald of Evil: Lucas Deranian, played by Donald Pleasence.
  • Beary Friendly: The kids use a bear to help them escape from Bolt's henchmen.
  • The Big Bad: Mr. Bolt
  • Chekhov's Gun: During their escape, Thunderhead and the gate guard's cat allergies. Winky the cat disables the guard by his very presence, and Tia calls on Thunderhead the horse to be their means of escape.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Mr. Bolt.
  • Cute Kitten: Winky.
  • The Dragon: Lucas Deranian
  • The Drifter: Jason O'Day in his RV, a lonely old man wandering around. He comes to the aid of Tony and Tia.
  • Dutch Angle: Used for Mr. Bolt and Deranian in the scene where Tony and Tia psychically spy on their conversation and learn Bolt's plan to imprison them.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Jason O'Day. Becomes a Cool Old Guy
  • Friend to All Living Things: Tia, who can talk to animals.
  • Illegal Guardian: Lucas Deranian, who forges papers to make himself out as the kids' uncle.
  • Magic Music: Tony uses his harmonica to help him focus his telekinetic powers.
  • Psychic Powers: Tony can visualize far away places and see what is happening there. He and Tia both have telekinesis (although hers is mostly used for opening locks).
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Uncle Bene. In the book, he died on board the ship after having been shot making his escape. Here, he survived without being shot.
  • Super Human Trafficking: Tony & Tia are chased by Mr. Bolt, who wants to use their powers for his personal gain and a mob of people on a literal Witch Hunt. Not that they know what they'll do with the super-powered kids once they catch them.
  • Table Space: The unease of Tony and Tia at Bolt's mansion and Bolt's predatory attitude towards the children is demonstrated in a scene where they all have dinner at a long formal table, with Bolt and Deranian on the ends and the kids sitting together in the middle.
  • Witch Hunt: Some of the posse of backwoods hunters think the children are witches.

Tropes found in Return from Witch Mountain:

  • Artistic License Nuclear Physics: Well, there's no telling what a "plutonium furnace" is. Beyond that, the operators are afraid that stopping the cooling pumps will start the "chain reaction," when a chain reaction is what's supposed to happen. The danger with a loss of coolant is overheating, causing a steam explosion.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: This is a kid's movie from Disney, so Dr. Gannon can't kill Tia or anything. He instead puts her in a state of "comatose neutralization", from which she is liberated by the Earthquake Gang. Possibly justified if Gannon wanted to make Tia his slave too, although there's no hint of this in the film.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Not the most carefully plotted film. Or maybe Los Angeles is a really small town.
    • Who just happens to be outside the entrance to the museum? Mr. Yokomoto, the truant officer who was chasing after the kids of the Earthquake Gang earlier in the movie.
    • Whose cab does Alfred the goat leap into? The one belonging to the cabbie who picked up Tony and Tia at the Rose Bowl at the start of the movie.
    • The abandoned house where the Earthquake Gang hides out is, conveniently, within walking distance of Gannon's mansion.
    • When Tia and the Earthquake Gang kids are desperately trying to get to the plutonium plant, who do they find by the side of the road? Mr. Yokomoto again, as he's just waiting around next to his smashed van.
  • Driving a Desk: Very noticeable in multiple scenes, and maybe even cheaper looking due to the fact that by 1978 Hollywood cameras could capture scenes inside a moving car, making this trope unnecessary.
  • Finish Him!: "Finish her!", cries Dr. Gannon, but Tony resists squashing Tia with a 125-ton crane, and Gannon's mind-control device shorts out.
  • Hollywood Density: Averted. Tony uses telekinesis to send the gold bars sailing out to Sickle—who is knocked backward by the force of the first one hitting his chest. The second one knocks him to the ground. Thereafter Sickle retreats under the car for cover, as the stream of gold bars that Tony is sending out of the museum batter the car into a shapeless wreck.
  • Impairment Shot: From Tia as she is chloroformed.
  • Instant Cooldown: Played completely straight. The reactor is in the red zone (and the scientists have been saying for a while that it's almost at the point of no return); Tia mentally tries to fix the coolant system in a struggle with Tony (the needle wavers back and forth within the last quarter of the red zone), then Tia wins and the needle retreats into orange, yellow...(about 3 seconds of screen time) and the camera cuts away. It's not shown again but it's clear that things are back to normal (and even pulling up parts of the reactor room and crashing them together so that they explode doesn't disturb the reactor subsequently).
  • Mad Scientist: "My experiments are more important than the law," says Dr. Gannon, who seems to want the usual Mad Scientist reward package—money, power, recognition as the man who's controlled "molecular flow."
  • Mind-Control Device: Dr. Gannon has a little gizmo that you attach to the victim's neck. This renders the victim a mindless slave that will obey the commands Gannon speaks into the radio controller attached to the device. At the climax, Tony's struggle to resist the order to murder Tia makes the controller explode, freeing Tony.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Cripes, "Letha Wedge"?
  • Newscaster Cameo: Real Life radio personality Gary Owens is the man who delivers the radio bulletin about the crisis at the plutonium furnace.
  • Non-Giving-Up School Guy: Mr. Yamamoto, the truant officer who really, really wants to get the kids of the Earthquake Gang back into school. After he helps save Tony, the kids agree to go back to school so they can be as smart as Tia and Tony.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • The first movie clearly establishes that Tia, the more powerful of the siblings, is the only one who can use telepathy—she projects her thoughts to Tony but he has to talk back with his mouth. In this film, both kids talk to each other telepathically.
    • The first movie also demonstrates that while Tia doesn't need any sort of aid, Tony needs a Magic Music harmonica to focus his telekinetic powers. In the sequel Tony doesn't need his harmonica to move stuff around.
  • Timmy in a Well: Dr. Gannon keeps a goat named Alfred in his lab for—some reason. Anyway, Tia sends Alfred the goat off to get help. Alfred makes his way to the Earthquake Gang's hideout, snatches Tia's vest, and leads the gang back to her.