An easy way for novices to break into features is to string together various short subjects, shot on the cheap at different times, into a crazy-quilt anthology picture. That seems a likely explanation for this straight-to-video hodgepodge.
A retired scriptwriter (Ernest Borgnine) tells his grandson bedtime stories about legendary wizard Merlin (George Milan) materializing in the present day to spread magic and wonder. How? By opening a grotto-like store in a northern California town.
First, Merlin gives a book of spells to skeptical newspaper columnist Jonathan Cooper III (John Terrence). The arrogant scribe is delighted that its dangerous incantations are genuine, but he rapidly ages every time he works sorcery. The book contains a rejuvenation formula, but it turns Cooper
into an infant, granting the wish of his barren wife to have a baby.
Next, a mechanical monkey stolen from Merlin's shop is resold as a birthday gift for a little boy. His father, David (Ben Mendelsohn), notices that the monkey sometimes clashes its cymbals of its own volition, and a succession of housepets perish under mysterious circumstances. David tries to get
rid of the infernal plaything before it can strike again and kill a person. But the monkey keeps reappearing, until Merlin finally retrieves it.
The Merlin footage in this second episode was clearly shot much later and inserted into an existing production. The quality of the film stock changes every time the old magician and his polyester-white fake beard enter the frame, and he never interacts with the principal cast.
That's not the only supernatural transformation wrought in MERLIN'S SHOP OF MAGICAL WONDERS. With occasional deaths, attempted shock endings, and mild gore effects, the tales come across as straightforward horror. Somewhere along the line, writer-producer-director Kenneth J. Burton reworked the
material as kiddie fantasy, thanks to bookend scenes with guest star Borgnine.
MERLIN'S SHOP OF MAGICAL WONDERS isn't wholly unsuitable for youngsters, but it clearly isn't what it started out to be. (Violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: NR
- Review: An easy way for novices to break into features is to string together various short subjects, shot on the cheap at different times, into a crazy-quilt anthology picture. That seems a likely explanation for this straight-to-video hodgepodge. A retired scrip… (more)