Two extremely powerful psychic children are chased by Donald Pleasence and Ray Milland in Disney's 1975 film Escape to Witch Mountain. A badly written film filled with too many plot convenient coincidences and vaguely established character motives, it nonetheless has a few moments of magic.
Tony (Ike Eisenmann) and Tia (Kim Richards) are the supernatural siblings, recently re-orphaned after their foster parents passed away. We meet them as they're trying to adjust to life in the orphanage. On an outing one day, Tia spots Donald Pleasence about to get into a car and knows he'll die if he does. She warns him and he avoids getting into the car just before a truck slams into the passenger side. He realises these are exactly the kinds of kids his employer, a powerful and irritable rich man played by Ray Milland, is looking for. For what nefarious purpose does the sinister Aristotle Bolt (Milland) seek powerful psychic children? He lures them to his fabulous--and, by God, I mean really fabulous--mansion. He gives them ice cream and a combination playroom and bedroom cluster of chambers all to themselves. It all looks too good to be true.
And so Tia says her powers tell her. Yet we never actually learn what Bolt wanted them for. He makes a vague speculation about how they could easily find oil wells. So he wants to use them to make money and all he gives them in return is, apparently, anything they want. I'm not seeing the downside here.
It's weird from that angle but as a point of character development it's also pretty wobbly. Think it through a second. Powerful and absurdly rich Bolt gets it into his head one day he needs someone with psychic powers. He needs that someone so bad he tells his top man to scour the land. In one scene, he angrily promises to fire Pleasence if he fails to deliver once again. All of this would naturally lead one to believe he must have a very strong, specific reason to retain the services of a psychic. You don't launch the kind of manhunt evidently underway because you wake up one morning thinking, "Gee, I bet a psychic would come in handy in the world of business." The performances by Milland and Pleasence are of course the best in the film but, for that reason, I was left wanting knowledge of their motives all the more.
But the kids escape and go on the run. They're helped by Eddie Albert who drives a Winnebago that presumably runs on petroleum from a well that was found without aid of a psychic. It's not hard for them to stay a step ahead of their pursuers because the kids can push cars off cliffs with their minds or pluck pistols out of people's hands. But then a sheriff jumps out from behind a corner after waiting for them at the exact spot Eddie Albert randomly decides to drop them off. There's absolutely nothing about the chain of events that makes sense yet it's almost worth it when Tony thwarts the sheriff by animating his coat rack with his magic harmonica.
There are few nice ideas like this. The kids take on a bear companion briefly, which I liked. But these moments are always couched in bafflingly bad dialogue filled with senseless justifications or conflicts. When Tia wants to free the bear, Tony argues with her that they shouldn't because they can't take care of the bear once they're in the woods. As though the bear is unable to care for itself and would render the children no assistance in their flight from an angry mob that thinks they're witches (of course, the bear almost immediately turns out to be useful for exactly this).
The sequel has a different screenwriter so I might check it out.
Escape to Witch Mountain is available on Disney+.