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Escape to Witch Mountain Special Edition DVD Review

Escape to Witch Mountain: Walt Disney Family Classics Edition DVD
Escape to Witch Mountain received a new DVD release in March of 2009.
Click here to read our better review of this available edition.

Escape to Witch Mountain

Theatrical Release: March 21, 1975 / Running Time: 97 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: John Hough

Cast: Eddie Albert (Jason), Ray Milland (Aristotle Bolt), Donald Pleasance (Lucas Deranian), Kim Richards (Tia Malone), Iake Eissinmann (Tony Malone), Denver Pyle (Uncle Bene)

 

Young Tia (Kim Richards) and Tony Malone (Iake Eissinmann) arrive at an orphanage after the death of their foster parents, and immediately, the other children notice something is different about them. In baseball, Tony is able to jump high to catch fly balls...fifty feet high. Tia gets a feeling about certain things that are about to happen and she prevents a man from being the victim of a car accident.

The man, Lucas Deranian (Donald Pleasance), informs his malicious boss Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland) of these two special children, and they seek to exploit their powers, with Deranian posing as the siblings' uncle to get custody. Tia and Tony take off, with hopes of remembering and finding exactly where on Earth (or not) they come from. They get assistance from Jason O'Day (Eddie Albert), an old soul who at first look appears to be gruff, but is entirely sympathetic to the two children.

Escape to Witch Mountain is an enjoyable film that remains close to the Disney formula of the studio's more successful live action films of the '60s and '70s, while attempting to be more of a genre work. With a director (John Hough) whose niche is supernatural and horror cinema, Escape does flirt with intrigue, mystery, and science fiction more than the traditional comic angle that most fantastical elements are used in Disney's live action fare.

The first half works better as a fantasy film, which John Hough's later production for Disney The Watcher in the Woods would stick to. As the plot progresses, particularly in the film's final act, it does cross over from charming and kind of gripping to undoubtedly hokey, but it does so in such a way that you won't mind. At least, I didn't mind. Modern audiences will find the low budget special effects easy to spot and ridicule in places, but this still remains one of Disney's more compelling and clever live action features.
 

Buy Escape to Witch Mountain: Special Edition from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.75:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English
Closed Captioned
Release Date: September 2, 2003
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
White Keepcase


VIDEO and AUDIO

The wonderfully pristine print allows the film to be seen with the utmost clarity. The video quality is satisfyingly clean, and the film's often soft and dark look is conveyed as it would have been nearly thirty years ago in theaters.

The soundtrack is relatively soft and low-key, but effective. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track makes use of the surrounds primarily for the film's score. Dialogue and effects mostly stick to the front speakers, and they are mostly clear. The spaceship appearances late in the film make good use of that subwoofer.

EXTRAS

As Escape to Witch Mountain is essentially a 2-disc Vault Disney set pared down to a single-disc, its menu offers at start, the option to go to "The Film" (what would be Disc 1) and "The Vault" (the would-be bonus disc that is also on this disc).

"The Film" section houses, as you would have guessed it, the film. You can view the film with audio commentary from Iake Eissinmann, Kim Richards and director John Hough, if you so desire. Before the film, there is the 8-minute short, "Pluto's Dream House", a rather entertaining comic piece in which Mickey and Pluto discover a magic lamp while digging in the yard...or do they? The Sneak Peeks that play at the start of the disc are for The Lion King, The Haunted Mansion, Stitch! The Movie, and Sleeping Beauty. Finally, there are the THX Optimode tests in the Set Up section.

Off to "The Vault" we go! True to the other "Vault Disney" and Vault Disney-esque "Special Edition" releases, it is split into two different sides. To the left is the meatiest bonus feature, "Making the Escape." This 26 1/2 minute piece documents the making of the film, with three of the young cast members reminiscing over their filmmaking experiences: stars Eissinmann and Richards, and fiery-haired co-star Dermott Downs. Topics discussed include nearly casting Jodie Foster as Tia, the frugality but effectiveness of the visual trickeries employed by the filmmakers, and the surprisingly popular reception to the film. Like the other Vault Disney Making-Of featurettes, this is immensely watchable and provides a satisfying and entertaining look behind the scenes of the movie.

"Conversations with John Hough" provides reflection from the director, who in addition to the two Witch Mountain films, helmed The Watcher in the Woods for Disney. This runs under 7 minutes, much shorter than the "Conversations" features on other Vault Disney releases.

"Disney Sci-Fi" is this disc's montage, which sets clips from Escape, and other studio films including Tron, The Rocketeer and even the wonderful Armageddon to a fantastic techno beat for 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

Conversations: John Hough Kim Richards in 'Making the Escape'

Over to the right side, there is the "Lost Treasures" which here is an 11-minute featurette on Visual Effects on Disney films, spanning the decades from early live action Disney productions like Treasure Island and Darby O'Gill and the Little People through '60s and '70s films like The Parent Trap, Mary Poppins and Pete's Dragon up to Touchstone's Dick Tracy. Topics discussed include matte paintings and post-production touch-ups. (Note the guy who gives the wrong year for Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken.)

The "1975 Disney Studio Album" feature highlights the studio's various productions from the year that Escape was released. The 3 1/2 minute montage can also be found on The Apple Dumpling Gang Special Edition DVD. Finally, there are the Galleries, which contain Production Stills, Cast Biographies for six cast members and the director, and Advertising separated into Lobby Cards, Posters, Comic Book, and Merchandise. No theatrical trailers are anywhere to be found here, unfortunately.

Dermott Downs in 'Making the Escape'


CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though this pared-down Special Edition of Escape to Witch Mountain is a far cry from the hours of content found on previous double-disc Vault Disney releases, it is still by and far a satisfying release. The first-rate video and audio quality, plus a fair amount of supplemental content really allow this fan favorite from the '70s to be enjoyed in all its glory. And the alternative treatment to given most other older live action Disney films -- a Fullscreen-only release with little remastering done and no extra content -- makes it even easier to appreciate this ample DVD release.

More on the DVD

UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Old Live Action (Pre-1980) Films Page | Live Action Countdown: Escape to Witch Mountain

Related Reviews:
Escape to Witch Mountain (Walt Disney Family Classics Edition)
The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975) | Return from Witch Mountain (1978)
The Watcher in the Woods (1981) | Return to Oz (1985)

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