Follow TV Tropes


Film / Escape to Witch Mountain

Go To
Escape to Witch Mountain is a 1975 Disney 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, Aristotle 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 (Eddie Albert) to conceal them as Mr. Bolt uses his influence to track them down.

In 1978 a sequel, Return from Witch Mountain, was released, with Richards and Eisenmann reprising their roles. 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.


Two remakes were made, a first one in 1995 under the same title that starred Robert Vaughn and Brad Dourif and a second in 2009 called Race to Witch Mountain and starring Dwayne Johnson.

Tropes seen in Escape To Witch Mountain:

  • Adaptation Personality Change: The owner of the orphanage in this movie is 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. Incidentally, the footage of the dogs is a Recycled Animation from Bambi. This is the era of Disney history that gave us Robin Hood, after all.
  • Bald of Evil: Lucas Deranian, played by Donald Pleasence.
  • Advertisement:
  • Beary Friendly: The kids use a bear to help them escape from Bolt's henchmen.
  • Big Bad: Aristotle 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.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Tony and Tia's escape from Mr. Bolt's mansion is filmed with a day-for-night filter.
  • Illegal Guardian: Lucas Deranian, who forges papers to make himself out as the kids' uncle.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: It's actually supposed to be a Twist Ending that Tony and Tia are aliens, but it's been a long time since that was treated as any kind of secret. Consider their Flying Saucer is right on the cover of the DVD. Not to mention, all subsequent installments of the Witch Mountain franchise give that information away in the trailer.
  • 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).
  • Quest for Identity: The entire film is driven by Tony and Tia's struggle to find out who they are and where they came from.
    • Jason too. He starts out as someone having pledged to never give his love to another person, and over the course of the movie discovers that his true self is a man that helps and safeguards children.
  • 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.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Tia can communicate telepathically with animals.
  • Superhuman Trafficking: Tony and 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.
  • Telepathy: Only one way, as it happens. Tia, the more powerful sibling, can talk to Tony with her mind, but he can't, and has to answer her out loud.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Letha.
  • 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.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Averted with Letha Wedge. She's the only female villain and she only reluctantly goes along with Dr. Gannon's schemes. However, her objections are pragmatic rather than moral. In the end, she's punished along with the male villains.
  • 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.
  • Sequel Escalation: In the original film, the kids' freedom was the only issue at stake. In Return, they have to stop a madman from nuking Los Angeles. The sequel also features more action and special effects than the original.
  • 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.
    • Neither of these is necessarily a continuity error. Three years have passed since the first movie, and they have spent those three years among their own people on Witch Mountain. Either Tony's powers have increased during that time, or Uncle Bene has taught him how to communicate telepathically and how to use his telekinesis without the harmonica, or maybe a little bit of both.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Dr. Gannon describes Tony's power as, "molecular mobilization." That's just an overly fancy way of saying, "moving stuff."
  • 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.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: How far is it from the Earthquake Gang's hideout to Dr. Gannon's mansion? It seems to vary depending on the needs of the plot.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: