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  Return from Witch Mountain Lift Me Up
Year: 1978
Director: John Hough
Stars: Bette Davis, Christopher Lee, Kim Richards, Ike Eisenmann, Jack Soo, Anthony James, Richard Bakalyan, Ward Costello, Christian Juttner, Brad Savage, Poindexter Yothers, Jeffrey Jacquet, Stu Gilliam, William Bassett, Denver Pyle
Genre: Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Psychic children Tia (Kim Richards) and Tony (Ike Eisenmann) now live on Witch Mountain with their kind, but their guardian Uncle Bene (Denver Pyle) wishes for a more rounded childhood for them, so to that end has arranged a visit to Los Angeles by way of education. They fly in on their flying saucer, landing in a football stadium that happens to be entirely empty, and walk out to meet the taxi Bene has arranged, Tia deftly unlocking the gates with her mind to allow them past. The taxi driver (Richard Bakalyan) wonders impatiently where they have been, and after receiving the destination rushes off with the kids, but they are about to meet a trio of rogues who will spell great danger...

This was of course the sequel to Escape to Witch Mountain, which featured Ray Milland and Donald Pleasence as the bad guys, but they were nowhere to be seen here as they had evidently been traded in for Bette Davis and Christopher Lee, accompanied by distinctive, though less famous, seventies villain Anthony James, not as sleazy as he was usually cast but still up to no good. This was the only time Davis and Lee teamed up in the movies, and they made an entertaining pair, though their noticeable difference in height must have been an obstacle for the cinematographer whenever they had to share the frame. But with two such vivid personalities, they couldn’t fail to add colour.

Though Return wasn't the most distinguished of the Disney live action efforts of this decade, following up a much-needed hit for them in this period with something more akin to a television movie if it had not been for some excellent floating effects that with no strings showing had obviously had a lot of care and attention paid to them. The other effects were perhaps a little less engaging, but if you wanted to see multiple instances of actors lifted off the ground and suspended in mid-air, then this would have been the very thing for you. As for the plot that necessitated such stunts, it saw Tia and Tony on opposite sides of the law thanks to the machinations of Lee's Dr Gannon, who naturally wants to rule the world.

Nothing wrong with ambition, but perhaps something wrong with that particular ambition, yet with his mind control technology he could make waves in that area. When he sees James saved from falling off a roof by Tony, who has had a premonition about the incident, he places his device behind the boy's ear and proceeds to get up to no good, leading to a setpiece where they try to rob bars of gold from a museum's Wild West exhibition. That doesn't go according to plan, but does at least lead Tia to them where she and her new band of pals, sort of a Red Hand Gang only with more truancy, set out to win Tony back from the evildoers. So you can see this was not the most convoluted of plots.

If anything, it was far too straightforward, and to underline the feeling of watching a live action Hanna-Barbera cartoon there was even a pet goat to fulfil the comedy animal sidekick role – if you don’t think goats can be trained, feast your eyes on this and think again. But this did get very repetitive, as if they had used up all their good ideas in the first one and were coasting on juvenile set-ups for the sequel. Lee and Davis provided some star power, however, and it was amusing to see this odd couple working in tandem as they eventually hold a nuclear power plant to ransom with Tony’s powers, but with Lalo Schifrin's soundtrack offering a mixture of wah-wah guitar, jazz flute and bongos, it couldn’t have seemed more like a television episode if it tried. Jack Soo, a favourite on TV's Barney Miller here in one of his last appearances, showed up to hammer home the "stay in school" message, and it all ended without any real upset in spite of Tony almost killing Tia under Gannon's orders. Middling at best.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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John Hough  (1941 - )

British director who began work as a director for 60s TV show The Avengers. Directed a wide variety of mostly genre movies over the last 30 years, the most notable being Hammer's Twins of Evil, The Legend of Hell House, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Brass Target, Incubus and Biggles. Also turned in Disney pictures Escape to Witch Mountain and The Watcher in the Woods, plus straight-to-video turkey Howling IV.

 
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