UltimateDisney.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Old Live Action (Pre-1980) Films Page | Escape to Witch Mountain

Return from Witch Mountain Special Edition DVD Review

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

Return from Witch Mountain

Theatrical Release: March 10, 1978 / Running Time: 95 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: John Hough

Cast: Bette Davis (Letha), Christopher Lee (Dr. Victor Gannon), Kim Richards (Tia Malone), Iake Eissinmann (Tony Malone), Jack Soo (Mr. Yokomoto), Anthony James (Sickle), Richard Bakalyan (Eddie), Ward Costello (Mr. Clearcole), Christian Juttner (Dazzler), Brad Savage (Muscles), Poindexter Yothers (Crusher), Jeffrey Jacquet (Rocky), Denver Pyle (Uncle Bene)


Review by Captain Hook

Three years after the successful Escape to Witch Mountain, John Hough, Kim Richards and Iake Eissinmann returned to the Disney studios to film the sequel Return from Witch Mountain, a movie so exciting and wonderful that perhaps it even rivals the first. This time around, there are new villains, new locations, but still has the clever effects (dated, but clever) that made the first movie so great.

The movie opens much as the first one ended, with the flying saucer. Uncle Bene (Denver Pyle) sends Tony (Iake, then Ike Eissinmann) and Tia Castaway (Kim Richards) off for a vacation in LA. While heading to their hotel, the taxi driver runs out of gas, and then Tony has a vision that someone is going to get hurt. Leaving Tia in the taxi, he goes out looking for this man. What he doesn't know is that Sickle (Anthony James) is part of a maniacal plot of Professor Victor Gannon (Christopher Lee) and his endorser Letha (Bette Davis). Victor has built an instrument that can control the mind of another human; Letha wants money. After witnessing Tony's rescue of Sickle, Victor drugs him and they haul him away, believing that he has "molecular control."

Meanwhile, Tia goes out searching for Tony and gets lost in the worst parts of LA. Thankfully she meets up with the Earthquake gang, a group of four boys who are not exactly what we'd think of a gang today. They help Tia look for Tony after she helps them escape from the Goons, another gang.

The movie continues with Tia chasing after Tony (who is now a zombie under Victor's control) and finally climaxes up to a battle between the siblings in a plutonium plant. And who do you think wins? (After all folks, this is Walt Disney Productions from the seventies).

The movie was released to DVD the same day as Escape to Witch Mountain and unlike other Disney sequels, was also given delightful Special Edition treatment.

Buy Return from 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

Like its predecessor, Return from Witch Mountain is pristine in color, though this one is much darker. Full of shadows and night shots, this contributes to its darker print than the first. However, judging from the terrible quality of an obviously non-restored "Lost Treasure" feature, the few artifacts and grain in the transfer are very minor. It is presented in 1.75:1 anamorphic widescreen and is also THX-certified.

Audio is quite excellent, though I can't remember anything coming from the back speakers (except when Tinker Bell flies around the room in the Disney DVD logo at the beginning). Still, dialogue is clear and nothing is too loud or too soft. Captions in English for the Hearing Impaired are available on this disc in the Set-Up menu.

EXTRAS

Sadly, this film also was prepared to be a 2-disc Special Edition but was reduced to a single disc. Again, like Escape to Witch Mountain, the first menu offers the option to go to "The Film" (what would be Disc 1) and "The Vault" (the would-be bonus disc that is also on the same disc).

"The Film", the first menu, allows you to play the film, and you can listen to a continuing audio commentary with Kim Richards, Iake Eissinmann, and John Hough. I listened to both commentaries on both discs. As much as I find John Hough to be an excellent director, he is incredibly boring. I would have preferred (on both Witch Mountain movies) to have separate commentaries, one for the director and one for the two children, who were a joy to listen to. (On a side note, I have read reviews of Watcher in the Woods where people complain about John Hough's commentary, and I would probably have to agree with them.) You can watch the cartoon short "The Eyes Have It" (7:24), in which Donald learns how to hypnotize Pluto - but of course things go terribly wrong.

Down in "The Vault", we have the choice to move to two different sides (exactly like other Vault Disney releases). On the left side are three features, "Making the Return Trip" (22:48), "A The Gang's Back in Town" (8:13) and "Disney's Kids With Powers" (2:59).

"Making the Return Trip" includes Kim Richards, Iake Eissinmann, John Hough, Erik Yothers (Crusher), Brad Savage (Muscles), Christian Juttner (Dazzler) and Kevin Cocoran (you'll remember him from Swiss Family Robinson and a host of other Disney movies). Danny Lee (Special Effects of many movies, including Bedknobs and Broomsticks) also makes an appearance (notice he calls the movie Return to Witch Mountain not once, but twice). It is a nice documentary, but after immensely long documentaries such as the one on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, this one feels like it has been chopped sort.

"The Gang's Back in Town" gets three of the four gang members Brad (Muscles), Erik (Crusher) and Christian (Dazzler) together for a reunion of sorts. Christian Juttner really got irritating with his constant interruption of Brad and Erik and his non-stop babbling. Also, the girl who voiced over for Tia was terrible. By far this was the worst extra yet. "Disney's Kids With Powers" was fun, but got old after seeing these type of montages so many, many times before on other discs. This highlighted the coming-soon Freaky Friday as well as Peter Pan. (Watch at the end when they call Honey, I Blew Up the Kid "Honey, I Blew Up the Baby").

On the other side of the Vault the first extra is (as usual) "Lost Treasures". This time it's an interview Pepe Lupi had with Christopher Lee (10:55) back in 1978. It's still in Spanish, but has English subtitles. It's an interesting piece of work, and I personally liked it, but the video quality is on par with "Water Birds" from The Rescuers.

The next extra is the Galleries, which includes Production Stills (67 pictures), Biographies and Advertising (13 pictures). Though on the back cover it claims this disc has a theatrical trailer, I could not find it anywhere, leaving me to believe that it has been dropped or is an Easter Egg.

Finally, the "1978 Studio Album" rounds off the disc. This 3 minute collection features clips from The Cat from Outer Space, Candleshoe and Hot Lead and Cold Feet, all three of which are coming to DVD summer 2004. This was as good a Studio Album as I've ever seen.

The Sneak Peeks in the beginning of the disc are for The Lion King Special Edition, The Haunted Mansion, Stitch! The Movie, and Sleeping Beauty Special Edition. There is also a THX Optimizer in the Set Up Menu (yes, this disc is almost identical to Escape to Witch Mountain).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It's disappointing that this set of Special Editions had to be lopped to single disc releases when they could have held so much more with a separate bonus disc. Nonetheless, this film (and the others) are presented on DVD with first-rate anamorphic widescreen and excellent sound. The lack of advertising for these titles is also disturbing. Those who are now informed are encouraged to check it out and enjoy one of Disney's darker films for years to come. This movie is out of this world!

More on the DVD

Related Reviews:
Return from Witch Mountain (Walt Disney Family Classics Edition)
Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) | The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)
The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979) | Tron (1982) | The Strongest Man in the World (1975)
The Watcher in the Woods (1981) | Return to Oz (1985)

UltimateDisney.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Old Live Action (Pre-1980) Films Page | Escape to Witch Mountain

Search This Site:

UltimateDisney.com/DVDizzy.com Top Stories: