By Gene Siskel
Escape to Witch Mountain
The new Walt Disney film “Escape to Witch Mountain” is a solid adventure for the under 12 set. That might sound like a backhanded compliment, but compared to other recent Disney live action features, “Witch Mountain” is something special. Only rarely is it juvenile.
Two children, an orphaned brother and sister, both about 12, star in this tale of the supernatural. The kids, Tia and Tony, have angelic faces and eerie talents. Tia can talk to her brother telepathically without moving her lips.
Both can move objects without touching them. Caught in a fight, Tony orders a baseball glove to strike a bully in the face. In another scrap, he has his pet black cat scratch his opponent. Weird kids.
But nice. Tia is clairvoyant, and she uses her ability to predict the future to save a powerful man’s life. Unfortunately, she picked the wrong man to save. Mr. Deranian (sounds like “deranged,” and played that way by Donald Pleasence) is the executive assistant to rich and powerful Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland). Bolt lives on the California coast in a San Simeon style estate.
Not satisfied with merely “owning everything in sight but the sky,” Bolt wants to latch on to things extraterrestrial.
Learning about the kid’s powers from Deranian, Bolt arranges for Deranian to masquerade as their long-lost uncle. Bolt takes the kids into his home, feeds them piles of ice cream, gives them a suite of bedrooms furnished with everything from a soda fountain to a puppet stage, waits not more than a couple of hours, and then hits the wee ones with his proposition: “You could tell where oil was, when natural disasters will occur. I’ll buy you anything you want; just don’t ever leave me.”
Which, of course, is exactly what the kids suddenly want to do.
A chase story
From then on, “Witch Mountain” is a chase story replete with the Disney outfit’s usual bag of special effects: flying cars, superintelligent animals.
One more thing. From time to time, Tia has these visions. She sees her brother and herself sinking off a wrecked boat in icy water. What do these visions mean? Who are these kids really? And where on earth did they get their powers?
“Witch Mountain” earned prolonged applause from the young matinee crowd I joined; little ones seemed to enjoy it best, and I wasn’t bored either.
“Escape to Witch Mountain” stars Kim Richards, Ike Eisenmann, Eddie Albert, Ray Milland, and Donald Pleasence
Escape to Witch Mountain preview (video)