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    Escape to Witch Mountain

    Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 93 mins . G . PAL


    This childrenís film from 1975 has one major failing; the audience knows what the children are waaaaay before they do and so everyone suffers the not uncommon fate of characters in Disney films. That is, they all appear pretty stupid.

    The film documents two kids who have abnormal powers of telekinesis and telepathy. They are unaware of who or what their parents are or were and they end up in an orphanage where other orphans think them freaks for their powers. By chance one day they save the life of a man who turns out to be searching for kids just like them. He soon wangles it so he looks like their long lost uncle and the kids are taken to the vast mansion of Aristotle Bolt to work for his criminal masterminding ways.

    "Our planet was dyingÖ the only industry left was the manufacturing of spaceships!"

    Unfortunately the kids discover his evil plans and decide to run away, which leads everyone on a chase across country. The kids enlist the help of a cantankerous old bastard driving a Winnebago (who soon learns the real value of love and not shutting people out to protect yourself etc.) and finally reach Witch Mountain. This is feared and avoided by the superstitious locals who think witchery happens there and sometimes witchcraft, but in actual fact turns out to be...

    Well, in case the film hasnít given itself away by now, I wonít do the same and ruin it for anyone who canít see beyond the end of their own nose. Suffice it to say that the ending is a bit of a letdown to say the least. If this were a film today the ending would have killed the film with its simplicity and it would have been pounded by critics and filmgoers alike. Thereís nothing even resembling the final unveiling of the truth as we have seen it coming long before. Even the artwork on the sleeve gives it away. No surprise or mystery usually equals no interest.

    Whereas this may have been something in its day, it isnít much today. The special effects, while good at times, are downright lousy at others and the clarity of the DVD treatment makes more than one trick in a special effect clearly visible. Thereís an interesting sequence in which puppets come to life and appear to be moving of their own accord and when thinking how this could have been done, there is a true wonderment to it. To work a marionette on strings on strings could only be a hard ask and here they look pretty great. Still, itís not really enough to save this film from the rental-at-best category.


    Well, for a film made around 30 years ago, this one looks okay for the most part. Picture quality is good with only a few artefacts scattered about. There is some grain occasionally, but this is fairly uncommon, as is some occasional film burn. Colours are even and bright without being muted and flesh tones are natural. Shadow detail isnít too bad either and does sport a lot of that rare grain mentioned above. Blacks are true and the film is delivered in the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with anamorphic spacemanship.


    Though channeled into a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix, there isnít a lot for the rear channels to do and the subwoofer also seems to be limited in its support. Thatís really only due to the fact there just isnít the requirement in the story or film. The music seems to be the most important thing, with Johnny Mandelís mildly over-dramatic score doing most of the channel travelling. Itís played by a small orchestra and does sound okay, though needlessly exciting at times. Thatís probably just the Ďkidís film syndromeí though. Some of the stock sound effects are a little like that too with repeated gunshots and car noises and so forth. There isnít really much to complain about here, although the 5.1 seems a little excessive and superfluous.


    All these were hustled off to Mars for experimentation and wonít be back in time for this DVD to be released. Too bad.


    As far as kidís entertainment goes, this was probably great in the school holidays of 1975. Up here in the future though, some 30 years later, this falls way short of even something kids could get excited over. There are the moments that will entertain, but tastes have changed dramatically with the advent of technologies and this may just find itself a little too antiquated to grab the attention.

    End transmission.

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      And I quote...
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