Revisiting Witch Mountainby Tony Phoenix, staff writer
- DVD Release Date: March 10, 2009
- Original Theatrical Release: 1975 & 1978
- 1.75:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
- French and Spanish Language Tracks
- Subtitles: Closed Captioned, French and Spanish
- Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Escape to Witch Mountain, originally released in 1975, follows the adventures of Tony and Tia Malone (Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards), two orphans with mysterious powers. Their powers are discovered by mysterious businessman Aristotle Bolt, (Ray Milland) and his henchman Lucas Deranian (Donald Pleasence). Bolt tries to coerce the children to use their powers to his benefit. Tony and Tia escape from Bolt's control, finding refuge with Jason (Eddie Albert) in his Winnebago camper. The movie continues as the children try to discover the secret of their origins, and try to find their true home.
The 1978 sequel, Return to Witch Mountain finds Tony and Tia stranded in Los Angeles. Tony is kidnapped by evil scientist Dr. Victor Gannon (Christopher Lee) and his associate Letha Wedge (Bette Davis). Dr. Gannon uses mind control to force Tony to use his powers to hold a nuclear power plant hostage. Tia teams up with a gang of truant children to save Tony, and foil the plot.
To coincide with the theatrical release of Race to Witch Mountain staring Dwayne Johnson, Disney has re-released these two movies on DVD. The original 2003 DVD release was reviewed by MousePlanet's Kevin Krock (link). A 2006 release combined both movies on a single DVD with no bonus materials. All of the bonus materials from the 2003 DVD release in addition to a new Pop-Up Fun Facts option is offered with each movie.
A clip from Escape to Witch Mountain
Pop-Up Fun Facts
Focusing on triva and history from filming the movie, the fun facts concept is not new; much of information shared in the commentaries is repeated here. Still, fans of the films should enjoy it. To their credit, the fun facts writers don't hestiate to poke fun at the movie, pointing out flubs and continutity errors. The only disappointment is in the quality of the fun facts presentation. A heavily pixellated font is used and the facts appear as subtitles. A better font and presentation would have gone a long way here.
Escape from Witch Mountain Returning Goodies
- Making the Escape – A half-hour documentary about the making of the film, with interviews, behind the scenes photos, footage and more. This is a very well done retrospective, and includes insights from a large number of the cast and crew.
- The Gang's Back in Town – A 2003 interview with three of the kids from the Earthquake gang.
- Disney Kids with Powers – Another montage of clips from Disney films, this time focusing on kids with powers.
- Christopher Lee, the Lost Interview – An overseas interview with Christopher Lee. Fans of his more recent work may enjoy this, as it looks at much of his early carrer.
- 1978 Disney Studio Album –A four-minute retrospective of films, TV, animation and theme park debuts from 1975
- Audio Commentary – Recorded in 2003, this is another excellent discussion of the making of the film with John Hough, Ike Eisenmann, and Kim Richards.
- "The Eyes Have It" animated short
A clip from Return to Witch Mountain
Return to Witch Mountain Returning Goodies
- Making the Return Trip – A Half-hour documentary about the making of the film, with interviews, behind the scenes photos, footage and more. As in the previous documentary for Escape to Witch Mountain it includes interviews and insights from the cast and crew.
- Coversations with John Hough – This short interview with the director, covering his career in Hollywood
- Disney Sci-Fi – A three-minute montage of clips from Disney science fiction films, shorts and shows set to an incredibly annoying techno music arrangement. Save your ears, and don't bother watching.
- DIsney Effects - Something Special – Interviews with various Disney special effects team members. Includes a look back at the making of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and a lot more!
- 1975 DIsney Studio Album – A four-minute retrospective of films, TV, animation and theme park debuts from 1975
- Audio Commentary: An excellent discussion of the making of the film with John Hough, Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards. This is actually very engaging and well worth listening to.
- "Pluto's Dream House" animated short
Audio, Video and Interface
The 2003 audio and video returns on these disks. The video quality is surprising good and clear of artifacts. Blacks are crisp and deep. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital, but the surround is rarely noticable. The unusual score does sound really good, with no noticable hissing or popping. The interface is a fun, campy 1970's styled animated presentation of scenes from the film.
The Final Evaluation
If you are not a die hard fan of the Witch Mountain series, and already have the 2003 release in your collection, then you can pass on this release. But if you don't already have these films in your collection or must have the absolutely best collection of extras and goodies, then this release is definitely worth a closer look.