Film scores

Soundtrack review: Escape from Witch Mountain (Johnny Mandel – 2015)

Escape-To-Witch-Mountain-Soundtrack

“Escape from Witch Mountain” is a usual Disney film because it involved science fiction and the occult. It was a time when audiences were fascinated with UFOs and the paranormal. Based on a famous novel, This is the story of two orphans with supernatural powers: the boy, with his harmonica, can use telekinesis to move inanimate objects while the girl can communicate with animals. She can’t speak so the two kids communicate via “ultrasonic speech” which can’t be heard by ordinary people. Intrada released Johnny Mandel’s score and it caused a lot of buzz.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about this score and a lot of people were very excited when it got released. I am ready to embark on the magic supernatural journey it proposes and the main title, allegro and fresh, youthful and charming is the perfect entrance. I hear it like that vortex that sometimes appears in movies or TV shows to suggest a portal to another world. It has that richness and dizzying effect of a vortex, switching from big band to melodic and back. I guess this means I’m in the right frame of mind for this score.

I always welcome a sweet, melancholic harmonica tune and “The magic pen and flashback number 2” slowly makes me remember things. It’s the perfect companion for a nice sunny memory resurfacing as if from nowhere. It must be a summer memory for sure because I see the sun sparkling and I get that unmistakable sensation of summer all through my being. It’s the only flashback that sounds like that because we have 5 more which are just sound effects that remind me of the flying saucer movies of old.

I always welcome the sound of a flute which never fails to give the sensation of magic, and I find hiding at the end of “Thunderhead”. The journey of “Escape from Witch Mountain” is made of moments. The score doesn’t have that unitary flow but it fits the movie and the theme of the children with supernatural powers. So you get slower cues and then you get “Skipping along” which will make you want to jump and stroll in a silly way and it will remind you of the child’s games you used to play. The cue is infectious and joyful and it’s guaranteed to put you in a good mood.

“Escape from Xanthus” is the most complex cue from the score and also the one I would recommend to anyone who’d like to sample “Escape from Witch Mountain”. It part James Bond part Indiana Jones and pure adventure and fun. It also includes those weird sound effects which are probably associated with the girls’ supernatural powers so we pretty much get the idea of what’s going on.

Some cues, like “Runaway motorcycle” are too fun to miss. It has a unique sound and it cracks me up. Others, like “Jason” get serious and completely change the mood of the score. “Spotted and look, no hands” is suspenseful. “Spooking the sheriff and broom sequence” annoys me at first before turning into a wonderfully playful and exciting track. Like I said, the journey of “Escape from Witch Mountain” is full of surprises. It was an interesting listen and it fits the story. I’m not sure I’ll return to this score though, I didn’t connect with it as much as I hoped. Some moments I really liked, other didn’t mean much to me.

Cue rating: 77 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 11 / 54

Album excellence: 21%

Highlights:

Main title

The Magic Pen And Flashback No. 2

Thunderhead

Skipping Along

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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