[box cover]

Escape to Witch Mountain: Special Edition

Amidst all of the special features they've been busily digging out of the archives to toss on special edition DVDs of their "vintage" hits, Disney forgot one very important thing: warning labels. Something along the lines of "Do not watch this if it's been more than 15 years since your last viewing" might go a long way in saving nostalgic Gen-Xers from the pain of happily settling in to revisit a childhood favorite like Escape to Witch Mountain, only to discover that their fond memories are about as substantial as the movie's special effects. Naturally, caveats can (and must) be made for the fact that the movie was made in 1975, but hokey flying saucers and visible strings on "levitating" objects are only part of the problem. Watching psychically gifted, memory-impaired sibs Tony (Ike Eisenmann) and Tia (Kim Richards) elude the clutches of wily millionaire Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland) as they try to unravel their mysterious origins just isn't as thrilling as it used to be. The kids' acting seems stilted (all of the dialogue sounds looped), the plot is full of holes (why exactly does Mr. Bolt want the kids?), and there's a peculiar lack of urgency to the whole thing — when the kids have time to sit down for a leisurely meal with their curmudgeonly savior Jason O'Day (Eddie Albert), it's hard to feel like they're particularly worried about making it to Witch Mountain in a timely fashion. All that said, if you can dust off your eight-year-old self and put your disbelief in a headlock when you pop this in the player, you may manage to get a few nostalgic kicks out of this Escape. This kids are awfully cute, and there's a certain camp appeal to the whole thing, particularly the last couple of scenes (Denver Pyle alert!). The DVD supplements aren't too shabby, either. The film is preceded by the Disney short "Pluto's Dream House." There's a new, 26-minute retrospective "making-of" featurette (Richards still has the same hair, though the glittery eyeshadow and smoker's rasp are new), an interview with director John Hough, a vintage featurette about Disney special effects, a large still gallery, actor bios, an advertising gallery, the 1975 Disney Studio Album (a clip montage set to music), a music-video-like "Disney Sci-Fi" montage, trailers for other Disney DVDs, and an audio commentary featuring Richards, Eisenmann (who now spells his first name "Iake," apparently), and Hough. The erstwhile Tia and Tony recorded their track together, while Hough's was done separately; the director is quite serious and somewhat dry, while Eisenmann and Richards offer a more lighthearted, "do you remember?" approach. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is strong (dig the disco-creepy soundtrack), and the anamorphic transfer (1.78:1) reveals that the print has held up fairly well — in fact, perhaps too well, given how shabby the special effects look by comparison.... English closed-captioning, keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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