There’s a lot to want to love about this film. You have the return of the super powered Malone children, and more importantly, the same actors to portray them. Director John Hough returned to direct the sequel. The film also includes Christopher Lee and Bette Davis as the villains. Like I said, a lot to want to like. Something went terribly wrong along the way. Neither Christopher Lee nor Bette Davis take their roles seriously at all. I don’t think I’ve seen either accomplished thespian show so little effort in a performance. It’s very obvious they considered them to be throwaway roles. Davis remarks she did it only because she wanted to be in a film her grandchildren would like. She’s particularly bad in a role that has her so caked in makeup that she could be a Jack Pierce creation from the Universal horror days. What’s worse, the children spend about 80% of the film apart.
It’s three years later, and the children are returning from their home on Witch Mountain for a holiday, of sorts. They’re placed in a cab and sent off on a destination that they never do reach. Instead they play a prank on the cab driver and disable the engine. Believing he has run out of gas, he sets off to get some. In the meantime Tia has another vision of yet another unfortunate accident. For the second time, the children try to save the day only to be exposed to those who would profit from them. Victor (Lee) is a mad scientist who was experimenting with mind control at the time. When he sees Tony hold his subject in mid air to prevent his death from falling off the roof, he decides he wants to control that power. Along with his rich patron, Letha (Davis) they drug Tony and take him away before Tia knows what happened. Now Tia has to find and rescue her brother. Fortunately, Tony has advanced since the first film. He no longer needs the harmonica and he can now communicate with Tia, but the drugs are interfering. Tia encounters the Earthquake gang, a group of young boys who wanna be tough and bad, but aren’t. With their help she has to rescue Tony, who has fallen under Victor and Letha’s control. They use his powers to their own ends, eventually to hold the world hostage at a plutonium plant.
This is all too silly, even for a Disney family movie. Most of the movie is spent with either Tony using his powers under the bad guys’ control or Tia messing around with the cute, but overused, Earthquake gang. There’s too much hijinx in the form of zany chases and unlikely rescues. Some of the better moments are supplied by Barney Miller’s own Sergeant Yemana, Jack Soo. He plays a truant officer who is trying to get the Earthquake kids in school. It’s a very warm and charming role, likely made more endearing knowing that Soo would pass away just a year later. While the first film had enough to hold adult attention, this one will feel tiresome before it’s over.
Return From Witch Mountain is presented in its odd original aspect ratio of 1.75:1. This is a very inconsistent print or transfer. The opening sequence is about as dirty as they come. There are moments when the picture looks quite clean and bright. Overall it looks like a 70’s cop show.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track might well have remained a 2.0 or even mono presentation. Again, I’m not complaining, it’s just a waste of time and effort. Everything really happens in front, where it was originally. You can hear the dialog just fine, so don’t fret about the rest. The music doesn’t really fit the film. It sounds like Starsky and Hutch, I mean almost exactly.
There is an Audio Commentary with director John Hough and the children, not any more, of course, Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann. Unfortunately, it’s obvious they are not interacting and were recorded separately. It’s still fun for the reminiscing, but you don’t get the interplay I would have loved to hear.
Making The Return Trip: This 23 minute feature is culled from the same sessions as the one from the first film. You get three of the Earthquake kids added here.
Lost Treasure – The Christopher Lee Lost Interview: Even though this 10 minute interview is in Spanish, it’s really quite entertaining. It’s fun to watch Lee try to explain to the Spanish journalist the plot of the film. He’s actually quite good in Spanish, although not fluent. He does often have to resort to a “How do you say…”. At the end he sings for us. The picture and audio are bad, but worth watching.
Disney Kids With Powers: This is another montage of clips featuring powerful kids from Disney films.
The Gang’s Back In Town: Spend 8 more minutes with the now grown Earthquake Gang. They laugh and reminisce about the show and what they do now.
1978 Disney Studio Album: Another montage of clips this time featuring the Disney 1978 slate of films.
Short: The Eyes Have It: Another Disney cartoon short. Here Donald Duck tries to learn hypnotism and practices on Pluto.
Pop-Up Facts: You can enable this text feature to run with the film.
Ticket To See Race To Witch Mountain The new remake/reboot/sequel.
There’s little doubt that the impending release of the Dwayne Johnson Race To Witch Mountain is the reason these films have reappeared on home video. Harmless enough fun, and it gets you a ticket from each release for the new film. While you’re waiting for that, you’ve got something to reacquaint yourselves with the Witch Mountain universe. Likely you won’t recognize it anyway. If you’re planning on running these two films, give me a call. “I’ll be around to pick up the chips.”