Christopher Lee, Ike Eisenmann and Bette Davis.
After the success of Walt Disney’s Escape to Witch Mountain it was no surprise that a sequel would soon be in the works. It would, however, be three years before Return from Witch Mountain brought the mysterious alien twins Tia and Tony back to the big screen. As a kid I enjoyed this movie quite a bit but like most movies from childhood it doesn’t live up to my memories of it.
In the opening shot a flying saucer lands on the fifty yard line of the Rose Bowl. It is just Tony and Tia being dropped off by their Uncle Bene (Denver Pyle) for some fun and human culture. They get in a cab with a crabby driver but on the way to their hotel they inadvertently get involved in an adventure.
They cross paths with Christopher Lee and Bette Davis. He is a mad scientist hell bent on world domination and she is a greedy old dowager helping to finance his experiments. He has created a mind control device (an idea straight out of Gilligan’s Island) that he uses to kidnap Tony after witnessing his amazing telepathic abilities. Tia, meanwhile, meets a gang of baby-faced juvenile delinquents being chased by a truant officer (Jack Soo) and together they go in pursuit of her brother.
Both Davis and Lee are slumming it big time. In an interview Davis said she took this part for her grandkids, and also, presumably, for the paycheck as she is top billed. Both she and Lee ham it up every step of the way and in the process manage to add some fun to the otherwise weak script. By this point in her long career she was nearly a caricature of herself. Giving lines like, “I’ve lost all faith in science” her distinctive clipped and carefully enunciated but slightly hoarse reading.
The special effects are laughably primitive by today’s standards. In fact everything about this movie seems quaint and old-fashioned more than thirty years later. This is classic Disney family fare from an earlier era, flawed but still a fun ride.
Photos © Copyright Walt Disney Productions (1978)