Monday, October 01, 2007

Escape to Witch Mountain

Despite my son's pleas to see Pan's Labyrinth, the fact that the child-eating demon who keeps his eyeballs on a plate can still give me nightmares means he's going to have to wait a looooong time until that viewing. Ever-helpful Netflix suggested a family friendly alternative: the 1970s Disney schlockfest Escape to Witch Mountain, in which little orphans Tony and Tia seek their destiny. The film's main message seems to be that, unlike anything Charles Dickens or J. K. Rowling might have suggested, orphanages and foster families are wonderful things, abounding in love and growth opportunities (the former are especially good, watched over by grandmotherly figures and situated in cheerful mansions with mountain views). Also, when the kids do run away, the open road is full of crusty but lovable father figures like Eddie Albert rather than serial killers and pedophiles as we would expect.

Anyway, what my son realized long before I did is that the film is a retelling of the story of the Green Children. In this case the aliens arrived from another world in a spinning metallic flying saucer (oh I love the 70s), and they were never green ... but the boy and girl found themselves in an unfamiliar culture where they could not speak the language and had to be slowly assimilated, never quite blending into their new world. The happy ending here that the medieval version lacks is that a portly uncle eventually arrives to put them back in the saucer and take them to the colony on Witch Mountain.

I didn't have the the stamina to let me son know that it was a double DVD with Return from Witch Mountain included. I do have limits.

15 comments:

Eileen Joy said...

Okay, this is embarrassing, but "Escape to Witch Mountain" [and its sequel], along with "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" were my favorite Disney movies growing up. Yes, I know I could have chosen better ["Mary Poppins" and "The Jungle Book" ran a close fourth and fifth], but there you have it. But consider yourself lucky: my daughter's favorite thing to watch at present is friday night wrestling, and she thinks it's real, including the ridiculous back stories for each of the wrestlers. I had to buy her a glow in the dark poster for her favorite, John Cena. Seriously. It's all low-brow over at our place, all the time.

Mary Kate Hurley said...

Ah, old Disney movies. My favorite.

JJC> Glad to know I'm not the only person who found that creature with the eyeballs to be nightmare inducing. What a frightening (if beautifully made) film.

Eileen> you're not alone: "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" was my favorite growing up too. I loved the way the armor came to life. And the animated animals on the island. And the songs. Most of which I still remember (the things my brain retains are slightly frightening -- and the list definitely includes lyrics from almost every Disney movie).

Also topping the list: Flight of the Navigator. That *never* got old.

dan remein said...

I have to weigh in with worse: i, on many-a occasion had my father sit down with me to watch the disney "the sword in the stone." yes. my favorite's disney movie had the message "brain over brawn." you can tell what sort of child i was.

History Geek said...

I loved those movies growing up, I should go track them down and watch them again.

Dr. Virago said...

I *loved* the Witch Mountain movies when I was a kid. Loved loved LOVED them! But I'm not going to Netflix them because I'm afraid I'd hate them now.

J J Cohen said...

It's reassuring to see that others love that film, and other tacky Disney fare as well. Somehow as a kid I convinced my siblings that I, like the kids of Witch Mountain, possessed telekinetic powers and ESP. I also owned the record of the Bedknobs and Broomsticks soundtrack (yes, record: I played it on a Disney record player with a Pluto theme; the little arm that held the needle was shaped like a bone). Ah to hear me sing "Portobello Road, Portobello Road, street where the riches of ages are stowed, artifacts to glorify a regal abode ..."

Karl Steel said...

My only Witch Mountain memory involves reading the "novelization," probably in 4th grade...

I also owned the record of the Bedknobs and Broomsticks soundtrack

Ah, a slight gap in generations. I had a 7" of The Rescuers, which, in a bit of apr├Ęs coup, I remember liking because of the gothic element: the pit with the skull in it where our (human) hero nearly bites it. Never saw it in the theater, but I must have worn the record out on my Disney themed record player with a Mickey (?) theme (the playing arm was a yellow-gloved limb terminating in a...mouse? termite? sasquach? potlatch?). I must have owned the Pete's Dragon record as well.

As for childhood Disney movies: well, the 70s were rather a desert, but I remember their Alice in Wonderland, which I saw in its second rerelease (1979?),* and which I remember as the first movie I hated for aesthetic reasons: I just thought it ruined the book.

Ah to hear me sing "Portobello Road, Portobello Road, street where the riches of ages are stowed, artifacts to glorify a regal abode ..."

karaoke in Kzoo?

(* as long as I'm remembering and not grading, I remember the greatest double feature I'll ever see: 1981, Clash of the Titans and Lord of the Rings. I was probably 10 years old, and nothing will ever top it. I'm inclined to say that whatever medieval wonder I draw on my work comes from the well that evening sunk in my soul. Likewise with the sweet, sweet bathos of that last clause)

Liza said...

MKH> YES on Flight of the Navigator. Just, yes.

Karl> My parents bought me Alice in Wonderland and I watched it once was scared out of my mind, and refused to touch the thing again. And it takes a lot to scare me: the next movie that scared me was Being John Malkovich.

Never seen Escape to Witch Mountain, though it sounds like something I would have loved. Way to get Kid #1 making those comparative approaches early!

History Geek said...

karaoke in Kzoo?
I suddenly had a horrifying vision of this happening at the dance.

Brandon H. said...

I never was a fan of the Witch Mountain movies, nor of "Bedknobs & Broomsticks," nor of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"--but some of the others mentioned already really bring me back with great resonance. Yes, "Flight of the Navigator," ""The Rescuers" (and "Rescuers Down Under"), and "The Sword in the Stone" were among my tops, too. Right up there with them was "The Chipmunk Adventure" and--I still do not know why my parents let me watch this movie--was "Alan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold" in all of its 80s adventure glory.

I, of course, could go on... but I won't mention all of the other late 70s/early 80s favorites that held such a sway over my young life ("Star Wars," "Indiana Jones," and "Back to the Future" as the top trilogies)...

Mary Kate Hurley said...

dan>Thank god! I'm not the only person who made their parents watch The Sword in the Stone over and over again. My sisters still whine when I ask to watch it at home (I know they really love it, and are just hiding it from me). A legend was sung, of when England was young and knights were brave and bold....

If I'd gone on to #3 on the list, Sword in the Stone would have totally been there. Followed closely by Darby O'Gill and the Little People. I can *recite* that movie. And of course was scared out of my wits by the banshee, as well as the Death Coach.

Karl>Pete's Dragon! Such an awesome movie. I think I also know all the songs to that by heart.

And hasn't the option of karaoke at kzoo been raised? Semi-seriously? I'd be totally game.

Liza> Thank god I'm not the only one with Flight of the Navigator!

Gryphon said...

Hooray for Witch mountain!

For a slightly less cheery Disney recollection, does anyone else recall "The Black Hole"? I saw it in the theater when I was 6, and I've found that you can date people by whether or not they were traumatized by this movie. I've considered Netflixing it just to prove to myself that it isn't really all that bad, but I'm afraid the nightmares will return. Pan's eyeball monster can't hold a candle to killer robots!

Liz said...

Flight of the Navigator!! Oh, I can't even remember how many times I watched that. Anyone recognize the VERY young Sarah Jessica Parker?

sarah said...

the flight of the navigator was so wonderful, and i'd almost forgotten about pete's dragon and the chipmunks' adventure - it's been so long. the sword in the stone was one of the few disney movies we didn't own at my house, so it was a rare treat to watch it at a friend's house. i loved alice in wonderland so much as well, but then again i still so, so that's not too surprising. i think part of the reason to love alice was the lack of decent female protagonists in so many of those movies.

Rob Barrett said...

OK, now I'm starting to feel old with all this talk of watching movies X, Y, and Z over and over again. These are films that I saw when they aired on "The Wonderful World of Disney" or during their theatrical release. I.e., once. By the time VCRs came along, I was too old for such Disney fare: Krull and Conan were more my speed. :)