[box cover]

Return from Witch Mountain

If there's one thing the folks at Disney know how to do, it's milk more money from a successful movie by making a sequel. Back in 1975, they hit it big with Escape to Witch Mountain, so it only made sense to bring spacey sibs Tony (Ike Eisenmann) and Tia (Kim Richards) back for another round in 1978. This time the psychically gifted pair are let loose in Los Angeles after their kindly Uncle Bene ("The Dukes of Hazzard"'s Denver Pyle) flies them in from Witch Mountain for a little vacation. Faster than you can say "plot device," Tony's whisked away by evil scientist Victor (Christopher Lee, in full camp mode) and money-hungry matron Letha (Bette Davis, who must have been hard-up for cash at the time), who see the boy's powers as their ticket to world domination and riches, respectively. Thanks to the mind-control device they promptly plant on him, Tony can't communicate with his stranded kid sister, so she ends up enlisting the help of the Earthquakes, a Little Rascals-like "street gang." (Pop culture trivia alert: The pudgy kid who looks like Tina Yothers is, in fact, her brother Poindexter.) As Tony helps Victor and Letha carry out a succession of mildly nefarious schemes, Tia searches for him all over the city; mayhem ensues, culminating in a sibling showdown at a plutonium processing plant (natch). It's a rather thin storyline, so director John Hough fills in the time by having Tony and Tia make things fly, from the van of truant officer Mr. Yokomoto ("Barney Miller"'s John Soo, in a sweet performance) to the mannequins at the gold rush museum. Like its predecessor, Return hasn't aged all that well; the performances are stiff and/or campy, the special effects are poorly executed (and this was made post-Star Wars and Close Encounters, so there's not much excuse), and logic is tossed out the window. If you were a fan as a kid, you'll find a certain amount of nostalgic appeal; if not, don't bother. Extra points for Disney's special edition DVD features, though — in addition to an audio commentary by Richards, Eisenmann, and Hough, there's a 23-minute retrospective "making-of" featurette, a reunion of three of the Earthquakes, a "Disney Kids with Powers" clip montage, a vintage Christopher Lee interview (conducted entirely in Spanish, with English subtitles), extensive stills galleries, the 1978 Disney Studio Album montage, and trailers for other Disney DVDs. The film is preceded by the Disney short "The Eyes Have It" (featuring Donald and Pluto). The English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is clear, and the anamorphic transfer (1.78:1) is fine (just don't look too closely at all of those "levitating" objects...). English closed-captioning, keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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