Read my Escape From Witch Mountain DVD Review HERE!

BUY Return From Witch Mountain FROM AMAZON:
STUDIO: Walt Disney Video
MSRP: $19.99
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
• All new Pop-Up Fun Facts
• Commentary w/ director & “the kids” (now grown)
• Making The Return Trip (featurette)
• The Gang’s Back in Town (featurette)
• Lost Treasure: Christopher Lee, the Lost Interview
• Disney Kids With Powers (sorta music video made from Disney flick clips)
• 1978 Disney Studio Album
• “The Eyes Have It” (Donald & Pluto short)

The Pitch

I’d rather be watching Devil Dog: The Hound from Hell (same year, same kid actors).

“Using the collected parts of the Partridge Family’s David Cassidy and the Monkees’ Davy Jones, I have created a Teen Idol hybrid the likes of which the world has never seen! My first step to take over the world via adolescent girls’ lockers is nearly complete. Mwuh-ha-ha-LOL!!!”

The Humans

Cast:  Christopher Lee, Bette “she’s got Bette Davis eyes” Davis, Anthony James, Jack Soo, the returning Denver “Uncle Jesse” Pyle, Kim Richards (Tia), Ike Eisenmann (Tony), some additional street urchins, mannequins, and a goat named “Alfred”.
Director:  John Hough (Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry; Legend of Hell House; Watcher in the Woods; Return to Witch Mountain)

As soon as this department store closed for the night, Andrew McCarthy became well-informed on just how “purdy” his mouth is/was.

The Nutshell

Tony and Tia are back to let you know they can lift more heavy shit than Superman Returns. No explanation is offered for why the twins decide to visit a crummy LA neighborhood on their vacation, instead of looking up Eddie Albert. Ingrates! Eddie Albert and his RV must have too busy being replaced by Barney Miller’s Jack Soo and his truant officer van.  Pinch-hitting for Milland and Pleasance, are machiavellian villians, Bette Davis (investor) and Christopher Lee (mad scientist), who kidnap Tony in a quest for money and power respectively. Coolots-clad Tia joins a street gang (what if Walter Hill re-imagined The Little Rascals), summons and mind-controls a goat, and attempts to locate her missing brother before the climactic/telepathic showdown. For the 2nd film in a row, no heads are ‘sploded. 🙁

“What? So now a brutha can’t levitate???”

The Lowdown

Versatile genre-jumping director, John Hough, is in control again and shows that he can handle the 3 Director-Dont’s (kids, animals, FX), but I couldn’t help but think Disney pressured him into stearing this one into even more unneccesary kid-friendly territory (where Escape was almost the right balance). Admittedly, I haven’t read the book it’s based on, but the story is all over the place, the villains are neutered (not a small feat, considering Lee and Davis’ pedigrees), and the “Stay in School!” message (in lieu of the “Don’t judge a book…” moral from Escape) is severely ham-fisted. To his credit, Hough was able to display a more horror-movie-lighting treatment here than what was typical in a Disney flick prior (outside Hough’s own Disney ouevre), but the movie’s overall tone is too goofy to disguise with mere composition and shadows.

“It’s that way to the ‘Acne-scarred & Skeevy Henchmen Convention’? Roger that.”

The X-MEN 2 premise of “a behind-the-ear device controlling super-powered beings” is sound, but the meandering plot, too many kid characters, and unnecessary comedic moments nearly sinks this one for me. Watching it a second time for commentary and screen grabs was kind of a drag, even in my periphery. This could have been a decent sequel, if the movie focused more on the mad-science foundation and less on “Our Gang”. By the way, the truant pre-teen delinquents go by “Muscles”,  “Crusher”, “Rocky”, and… wait for it… “Dazzler” (a boy, no less).

Lalo Schifrin (Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt, Dirty Harry, Amityville Horror, Enter the Dragon, and more importantly, The Manitou!) also returns on score, injecting the film with time capsule “wocka chicka” 70s action music. And it’s always nice to see the ever-prolific Christopher Lee on the screen (even “defanged”), while pock-marked Anthony James contributes his reliable helping of slime. This film (and book, I suppose?) luckily advances the twins’ powers beyond the capabilities of its predecessor’s. They’re more confident, more in control, and Tony doesn’t need to pretend-play the harmonica here. It’s just a shame that telekinesis is almost always the go-to solution in their “Extra Terrestrial Powers for Dummies” manual.

“Hey, this a regular 125 ton crane! I wanted to be flattened by a 150 ton…” SQUISH!

Despite levitation fatigue, there are some cool action set pieces. The stunt driver from Bullitt flips a van and slides it down a hill into a fire hydrant, and the “fall guy” who invented the stunt-jump airbag takes a dive off a building in an early scene. I also dig the use of stop-motion animation in some of the twins’ power FX, particularly the telekinetic car repairs (“Will you please come and look at my damage with me sir? If we look together maybe some magic will happen.”). The ending is probably the best section of the film. The film-makers manage to ratchet up the tension a bit more, finally get T ‘N’ T onscreen together again (they’re apart most of the movie, unlike Escape) for a Teen Scanner Smackdown, and allow Lee to demonstrate some of his signature malevolence finally“Crush her!!!”

My judgement? It’s not nearly as satisfying or focused as the previous entry, but not an abduction/probing combo either. Lee and Davis are mostly wasted, as is the story’s mind-control nucleus. I’d sooner hunt down Cat from Outer Space, than watch this for a 3rd time. “Fun” Facts (and an even more thorough review) be damned!

Tia: “Why are you using your powers against me???” Why indeed, CHUD?

Mute Nazi Maytag Repairman VS Lamia-possessed Car-surfing Goat was a battle for the Ages!!!

The Package

Like I said in my Escape from Witch Mountain review (witness my CTRL+C/CTRL+V skills with slight alteration and like it!)… If you have the older version, the only new additions are the pop-up fun facts, less convoluted menus, and better cover art, but not really worth the upgrade. Since Return to Witch Mountain is rather inferior to Escape, it should have been included as a bonus on a hypothetical disc 2 packaged with the first, like this feature-free version. With that out of the way, the commentary is simultaneously dry/informative (director) and nostalgic (the two leads all grown up) and obviously edited together from two different recordings. Trivia! Christopher Lee is Tall and Bette Davis was pampered on set!

This particular edition (like the new companion Escape Special Edition DVD) came with a free ticket (that expired mere days after I received it) to see the re-imagined Rock-vehicle, Race to Witch Mountain. My family and I “Returned from” the theater after enjoying a fun Saturday matinee, you Disney palm-greasers. Thanks!

The Lost Treasure (“Christopher Lee, the Lost Interview”) is a treat, however. The Spanish interviewer, Pepe Lupi, convinces the congenial and accomodating British actor to sing a bit of opera. The interview, which is all in Spanish (Lee is very fluent), showcases Lee in a classic 70s leather jacket and an awe-inspiring mustache. I was easily charmed by his vampire powers. The included cartoon short, “The Eyes Have It” (in which Donald hypnotizes poor Pluto), is also in The Chronological Donald Volume One 1942-1946, but is a fitting extra here. The behind the scenes featurettes aren’t real extensive, but for a 35 year old semi-cult-flick, I can’t imagine that Disney has a ton of materials in the vault. It’s mostly supplemented with more recent retrospective interviews with cast and crew. It was fun to see that “T ‘N’ T” have hardly changed since growing up (Kim, you can “levitate” me any time).

6.0 out of 10

*For fun (and another opinion), check out the older 2003 CHUD DVD review (sorry the pics are busted)!

Strange… their Uncle had never discussed running from the law, cut-off jean shorts, and moonshine before, but Tony and Tia would never forget that fateful day or their subsequent (and inevitable) blossoming.