Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)

Forty-six years ago today, the film Escape to Witch Mountain premiered. This is the first film in the Witch Mountain franchise and sets the scene for the others. You should watch this movie.

Title: Escape to Witch Mountain
Directed by: John Hough
Produced by: Ron Miller, Jerome Courtland
Screenplay by: Robert Malcolm Young
Based on: Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander H. Key
Starring: Eddie Albert, Ray Milland, Donald Pleasence, Kim Richards, Ike Eisenmann
Music by: Johnny Mandel
Cinematography: Frank V. Phillips, ASC
Edited by: Robert Stafford
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by: Buena Vista Distribution
Release date: March 21, 1975 (U.S.)
Running time: 97 min.
Country: United States
Language: English
Box office: $20,000,000

The movie centers upon the brother and sister pair Tony and Tia, whose surname they initially know only as that of their deceased adoptive parents, Malone. The children are placed in an orphanage, where they face difficulties stemming from their strange psychic/psionic abilities: Tony can psychokinetically move and control inanimate objects with the aid of his harmonica, while Tia can communicate telepathically to Tony, commune empathically with animals, and experience premonitions. Tia also possesses minor telekinetic abilities. She carries a “star case” with her at all times, which eventually reveals a strange map.

Tia has fragmented memories of her early childhood, including an accident at sea and a man she later remembers as the children’s Uncle Bené (/bɛˈneɪ/ (About this soundlisten)), who they believe drowned during their rescue.

During a field trip to see a movie, Tia experiences a premonition and warns wealthy attorney Lucas Deranian against a potentially dangerous accident. Deranian informs his employer, millionaire Aristotle Bolt, of the children’s unique abilities. Bolt, obsessed with the paranormal, demands that Deranian retrieve the children at all costs. Deranian’s detective work leads him to the orphanage, where he poses as Tia and Tony’s uncle, though not under the name Bené, and takes them to Bolt’s mansion.

Though initially suspicious of Bolt’s motives, Tia and Tony are lured in by the wealthy trappings of Bolt’s home. Bolt eventually reveals that he has been monitoring the children via a closed-circuit television system and that he and Deranian are fully aware of their unusual powers. The night of this revelation, Tia and Tony make an escape, using their abilities to psionically control a wild mustang, guard dogs, and the security fence, as well as using Winkie, Tia’s cat, to make the allergic security guard let them pass.

Bolt sends Deranian and a thug, Ubermann, after the children. Tia and Tony hide out in a green-and-white Winnebago motor home owned by a crotchety widower named Jason O’Day (Eddie Albert). Initially negative toward the children, Jason gradually begins to recognize their powers and the truth of their story; Tia’s vague memories of a disaster at sea intrigue him. He agrees to take the children on the route indicated by Tia’s star case, which leads them to a mountain known as Witch Mountain, home to unexplainable phenomena. Avoiding Bolt, the law, and an incited mob convinced the children are witches, they eventually make their way up Witch Mountain, pursued by Deranian and Ubermann, as well as by Bolt in a helicopter.

As their memories begin to fully return, the children realize their accident at sea did not involve a boat but a spacecraft. Tony and Tia are actually of extraterrestrial origin; the double star emblem on the star case stands for a binary star system where their home planet was located.

Having come to Earth because their own planet was dying, survivors of the journey made their way to Witch Mountain and formed a community to await the surviving children, each pair in possession of a star case to help them find their way to their new home. Tony and Tia are the first to reach their destination. The children are reunited with their Uncle Bené (who survived after all, thanks to an “accommodating” shark whom he’d telepathically asked for help) and board another spacecraft. When Bolt and the others leave in defeat, Jason witnesses the spaceship’s return as it flies over him to say a final goodbye then landing nearby where the inhabitants now live.

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