Two orphans, Tia and Tony, blessed with psychokinetic powers, fall under the evil charge of Lucas Deranian posing as their uncle. He wants to get these kids into the clutches of millionaire Aristotle Bolt, with desires on their powers.
What a peculiar but effective children’s adventure movie this is. Peculiar because, at the time, the mid-seventies, Disney was preoccupied with making Herbie movies and letting its animation department go to ruin, and hatching onto Alexander Key’s exciting novel showed a rare flash of forward thinking. Magical kids are all the rage these days, and this charming, perilous tale of telepathic sprogs on the run carries a similar haunted strain to the Harry Potters — the search for family.
The main thrust of the plot involves the mystery of these kids’ origin. We are told they were somehow shipwrecked with only a “star case” and a picture with two suns at the top to hint at some form of alien status. That and their cerebrally fired abilities: the classic ‘70s staples of telekinesis, levitation, manipulation of locks; nothing too tricky for the effects department to manage. Then they happen upon a map to the Witch Mountain of the title, and the race is on. Tia Mallone and Ike Eisenmann (whose freckly face became the imprimatur of all child actors of the era) give them a chatty, attractive exuberance, if not much in the way of emotional vulnerability. Still, they could be from another planet, so who are we to judge?
On the badguy side of the equation is moody capitalist Ray Milland ready to exploit their marvellous talents. How deviously American; the film seems to have stumbled upon a subtext about craven parent figures manipulating their children’s talents for profit, as if Disney is undermining its entire ethos.
Milland and Donald Pleasance work well as a sinister duo, and the film musters some genuine kids-in-distress terrors to infect the dreams of its impressionable target audience. Mummy, will a nasty fat American millionaire steal me away? Thankfully, friendly but emotionally wounded loner Eddie Albert turns up to aid their escape. Strangely, when you start adding it all up, it really starts to resemble a dry-run for ET.
Dated but watchable children's supernatural adventure.