Review: Return From Witch Mountain


In this follow-up, humanoid aliens Tia (Kim Richards) and Tony (Ike Eisenmann) come back to Earth for a holiday (cue the cameo by Denver Pyle, presumably in the midst of filming “The Dukes of Hazzard”). Tony’s special powers are witnessed by sinister scientist Christopher Lee, who kidnaps the boy to use for nefarious means. Along with his financial backer Bette Davis, Lee has been experimenting with mind control. However, when they see young Tony, Davis sees the potential for pulling complicated heists, whilst Lee has larger schemes in mind (no pun intended). Meanwhile, Tia is left to herself, eventually falling in with a bunch of young kids (one of whom played by something called Poindexter Yothers, apparently the brother of “Family Ties” actress Tina) hiding out from the local truant officer (Jack Soo). Anthony James (from “In the Heat of the Night”) plays Davis’ lunkhead nephew early on.

 

A diminished return to say the least. This 1978 follow-up to the enjoyable Disney TV movie “Escape to Witch Mountain” is truly the pits. Directed once again by John Hough (“The Legend of Hell House”, “Brass Target”), but this time scripted by Malcolm Marmorstein (the uneven “Pete’s Dragon”) the story is a loser. Whereas in the earlier film it was enjoyably wacky and kept you on your toes with outlandish ideas, this one gives us Christopher Lee and Bette Davis trying to use mind control on young Ike Eisenmann (who seemingly turned into a human Chucky doll by 1978). Unfortunately, they don’t even find any creative or interesting ways in which to use the young boy’s powers. Meanwhile Kim Richards hangs out with the white Cosby Kids (minus a white Fat Albert) as they try to avoid sad sack truant officer Jack Soo.

 

It sucks. It really does, and neither a wheezy, tired-sounding Bette Davis nor the usually classy Christopher Lee cover themselves in glory here. It’s particularly a travesty wrapped in a shame to see what Davis had become by this point. Lee can usually be counted upon to class up a stinker with a committed performance under trying circumstances (“The Howling II: Stirba, Werewolf Bitch” and “Police Academy VII: Mission to Moscow” spring to mind), but here’s the one time he gives the bare minimum. I don’t blame him, to be honest, as the script gives him nothing worth giving a damn about. It might be the only dud performance of his entire long career. As for Jack Soo, the poor guy (in his last film role, no less) is saddled with an idiotic role of a truant officer driving a big green van with ‘Board of Education’ written on it. Is he a fucking dog catcher? Where is his big ‘ol net, then? It’s ridiculous. The only thing about the entire film that works is the unsubtle (and very much of its time) but enjoyable Lalo Schifrin (“The Cincinnati Kid”, “Cool Hand Luke”, “Bullitt”) music score. Otherwise, this disappointing sequel depressed the hell out of me. And what was with the random “Psycho” visual cue of Lee standing in the foreground with a stuffed and mounted bird above and to the left of him? There’s no real reason to do that in something like this.

 

With a plot as old as the hills, two child stars no longer as cute as they used to be, and two veteran actors having a very bad day, this is no fun at all. A horribly disappointing, distressingly unimaginative follow-up to what was quite an imaginative film. It’s only 90 minutes long but it feels interminable.

 

Rating: D

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