Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Begley is the host of horror movie podcast Wake Up Heavy.

Following the recent Wake Up Heavy episode on Return to Oz that I did with my daughter, I decided to plumb the depths of nostalgia on Disney+ even further. I checked out the Kurt Russell vehicle The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, then slid into a horror-lite favorite from my childhood Escape to Witch Mountain.

Escape is the tale of two orphaned children (or are they?)Tony and Tia, who possess psychic abilities. On a field trip with the orphanage to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the twins come to the attention of wealthy lawyer Lucas Deranian. He tells his boss, millionaire Aristotle Bolt, about the twins and their powers and they hatch a plan to take custody of them and exploit their abilities. Once Tony and Tia realize what is really going on, they escape and hide in grumpy widower Jason O’Day’s Winnebago. He reluctantly agrees to help, and the chase is on!

Readers of B&S About Movies may be wondering how this fits into the horror category, and, well, other than the title, it really doesn’t. Yes, we have horror icon Donald Pleasence as Deranian, and John Hough(Legend of Hell House, The Incubus) directing, but there isn’t anything even remotely spooky happening here. But they are kids (or are they?) in peril, so I’m taking some liberties just to write about this childhood favorite. Tony (Ike Eisenmann) and Tia (Kim Richards) use their powers (he can manipulate objects while playing the harmonica and she can communicate with humans and animals telepathically) in mostly cute or comical ways throughout the film. Along the way we see Tony control puppets, make a Winnebago fly, and a helicopter flip upside down, and Tina speaks telepathically to Tony, a cat, a horse, and a bear. I loved this kind of stuff when I was a kid and longed for special powers like that!

Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards were staples of my childhood. They appeared together in this, Return from Witch Mountain, and Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, as well as many other Disney shows and features on their own. Just a year after Escape Kim was unceremoniously blown away by a thug in John Carpenter’s Attack on Precinct 13. In 1977, she and her sister Kyle (the inimitable Lindsey Wallace in Halloween) were in The Car as James Brolin’s daughters. I had a major boyhood crush on Kim, and if you had told me back in 1977 that she and Kyle would be on a reality TV show about vapid people in Beverly Hills I wouldn’t have understood what you were talking about! Nor would I have wanted to.

I know I’ll be watching Return from Witch Mountain soon and will have to track down Devil Dog: Hound of Hell now because that title! Am I right? Also, here’s to hoping Disney+ adds some of their spookier treats like Watcher in the Woods and Something Wicked this Way Comes.

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