Orphans Tony and Tia have always struggled to fit in. For starters, they can’t remember anything from their past up until a few years ago, when they were adopted into a loving foster family. Sure, they have a map to a place called “Witch Mountain” and the occasional foggy flashback. But before they’re ever able to recall those memories clearly (or figure out what Witch Mountain is, for that matter), the images fade away again.
But what has really given the siblings grief over the years are their unusual powers. Among their gifts are the abilities to see into the future and levitate objects with their minds. You’d think most kids would be excited by these supernatural abilities. But after being called “weirdos” enough times, they decided it would just be easier to hide these strange gifts and try to appear as normal as possible.
Of course, that’s easier said than done.
When Tia and Tony’s foster parents pass away, they’re moved into an orphanage with lots of other children, and Tony just can’t help but show off a little. Tia scolds him for using his powers willy-nilly; but then she unwittingly draws the attention of a local businessman after using her own powers to save his employee from a car wreck.
The man wants to enslave them and capitalize on their abilities. Naturally, the siblings run away. With nowhere else to go, Tia and Tony figure that Witch Mountain is as good a place as any to hide away and, hopefully, to get some answers about their mysterious past and powers.
Tony and Tia are eventually assisted by a man named Jason O’Day. He barks that he’s “a mean, impatient, selfish man” who doesn’t like kids, but Tia insists he just likes to bellow a lot. And despite his protests, Jason finds himself honor-bound to protect the children and provide them with food and shelter. Tia and Tony divine that Jason lost his wife when he was very young, and then vowed to never love again. However, by the time their journey ends, Jason finds himself thinking of Tia and Tony as his own kids and promises to help any other children looking for safe passage to Witch Mountain.
Tia rescues a circus bear from its cage, believing it wrong for an animal to be locked up. She also saves a man from being hit by a car despite knowing that it could draw attention to her powers. Tony stands up to a bully when the boy comes after Tia.
The siblings are relieved and excited when they discover that their people are not only alive but have been looking for the siblings ever since they got separated.
While the source of Tia and Tony’s powers is at first unknown, many people believe them to be witches, with one man labeling the children “evil itself.” In addition to telekinesis and clairvoyance, the siblings are telepaths, too. They can communicate mentally not only with each other, but with animals, too, taming a wild stallion and bear.
Several characters are involved in astrology. Someone says, “Thank the blessed stars.”
[Spoiler Warning] It turns out that Tia and Tony have these powers because they are extraterrestrials, not witches. They eventually remember that their people came to Earth because their own planet was dying; when they are reunited with their people, they leave together in a spaceship.
Several antagonists with guns hunt down the children in an old-fashioned witch hunt, intending to kill them. (No guns are fired.) Two minions of Mr. Bolt (the man who wants to enslave Tony and Tia) are held at gunpoint with their own gun when the siblings use their powers to disarm the thugs.
Several cars wreck while chasing the children, but nobody is injured. One vehicle swerves off the road and hits a parked car, but the driver remains unharmed. Tia has flashbacks of a man saving her and Tony from a shipwreck before he apparently drowns (but not really).
Tony wins a fight with a bully by using his powers to pummel the other boy with a baseball glove and bat. He later makes a coat and broom attack a sheriff so that he and Tia can escape a jail cell. Several vicious dogs and a bear chase after people.
Some men drink wine with their meals and smoke cigars.
Mr. Bolt is a power-hungry man looking to exploit Tony and Tia’s gifts in order to get richer. He attempts to lure them into his way of thinking by showering them with sweets and toys but eventually shifts to “cruder methods of persuasion” when they don’t fall for his act. He threatens his own employees after they fail to stop the siblings from escaping and bribes a sheriff to detain them.
One of Mr. Bolt’s henchmen forges documents to convince the orphanage’s caretaker that he is the siblings’ uncle. He then lies to them and says his sister, their “mother,” passed away years before.
A child at the orphanage mocks the caretaker and steals a pen from Tia. He later fights and threatens Tony, riling up other children in the process. Tia and Tony are frightened when they are chased by dogs.
Escape to Witch Mountain was originally released in 1975, and at the time, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it “a sci-fi thriller that’s fun, that’s cheerfully implausible, that’s scary but not too scary, and it works.” And certainly, Tony and Tia’s flight from the nefarious Mr. Bolt has its frightening moments. But I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Ebert’s original assessment that it’s not too scary for most kiddos.
Despite what this movie’s title suggests, there are no witches in this live-action Disney classic, just a deep-seated fear and hatred of them—which can lead to some mildly tense moments. And while that might be a cause for mild concern, there aren’t many other factors to deter families from enjoying this film together.
Moreover, there are some good lessons to be learned here. Tia and Tony certainly aren’t your typical brother and sister, with their supernatural powers and whatnot, but it goes beyond that. When Mr. Bolt gives them everything they could ever ask for, they realize it’s not enough: “There’s nothing left to wish for,” Tony says. They tell Jason that they don’t hope to find their real parents; they just hope to find someone who can explain where they come from and why they can do so many incredible things.
In short, Tia and Tony just want to belong. And when Jason finally delivers them to Witch Mountain, it’s a heart-warming moment as the crusty widower bids farewell to the children whom he’s come to love saying wistfully, “They’re home now.”
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.