Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders

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Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders
Merlins shop.jpg
VHS cover
Directed by Kenneth J. Berton
Produced by Kenneth J. Berton
Written by Kenneth J. Berton
  • Ernest Borgnine
  • George Milan
  • Bunny Summers
  • John Terrence
  • Patricia Sansone
  • Mark Hurtado
  • Rick Hurtado
  • Nicholas Noyes
Music by
  • Michael Gfelner
  • Tony Martin
Distributed by Monarch Video
Release date
August 27, 1996
Running time
91 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is a 1996 American film written and directed by Kenneth J. Berton. In spite of what the title might imply, this is more of a horror film than a child-friendly fantasy.

The film stars Ernest Borgnine as a grandfather telling his grandson a story about the wizard Merlin opening up a store in modern-day America. He tells him two separate stories about Merlin and the store.


Although the opening segment implies that Merlin's magical interventions in people's lives are intended to have a benign effect, in practice this proves to be far from the case.

The first story focuses on a married couple, Jonathan and Madeline Cooper. Jonathan is a respected, though obnoxious columnist, and Madeline is desperate for a baby, as she and Jonathan have been unable to conceive. The couple visit the store, where Jonathan berates Merlin and threatens to write a negative article in the newspaper that will cause his readers to avoid the store. Merlin loans Jonathan his spell book as proof that he is actually the legendary wizard. Jonathan takes the book home and begins to toy with several of the spells. Jonathan becomes convinced of the book's authenticity when an unsuccessful spell to summon a spirit results in him having a vision of Satan and causing Jonathan to breathe fire. Jonathan quickly grows excited and becomes obsessed with the book's powers, but begins to dramatically age due to the rapid depletion of one's life force required to cast the spells. Jonathan attempts to transform his pet cat into a mystical servant, but it becomes demonic and proceeds to attack him. Using the spell from earlier, Jonathan breathes fire and burns the cat alive. By then, Jonathan has aged so severely that his hair is white and receded. Jonathan retrieves the book's rejuvenation spell and proceeds to create the required potion. He takes a sample of Madeline's blood and adds it to the mixture. Jonathan drinks the potion, but the spell backfires: Jonathan regresses into infancy. Madeline happily decides to raise her former husband as her own child.

In the second story, which bears a very close resemblance to Stephen King's short story "The Monkey", a thief steals a cymbal-banging-monkey toy from Merlin's shop, and sells it to a novelty store, where it is quickly bought as a present for a young boy. Every time the monkey's cymbals are struck, a nearby living thing dies. The boy's father takes the monkey and attempts to bury it, but it finds its way back into the boy's house. But before the monkey's cymbals are struck again, Merlin shows up and takes the toy back to his shop.


First Subplot[edit]

The Devil's Gift[edit]


The second segment of the film is a recut version of The Devil's Gift, a 1984 film made by the same director. Large elements of the original film's storyline are missing, and segments with Merlin are added to show him pursuing the toy monkey. The original film's dark ending, in which the monkey kills the entire family, is replaced with Merlin arriving just in time.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 version[edit]

The film has the dubious honor of being one of the last works to be featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000's original run (although its airing was delayed due to rights issues), the hosts and writers of which used the sloppy editing on the second subplot, the nigh-total disconnection between the two halves of the movie, and the wildly varying tone of the film (which is presented as though it were a family-friendly fantasy, but frequently features horrific incidents, something made even more disturbing by the fact that the halves of the film are stories that a grandfather is telling a little boy) as the basis for many of the jokes. For example, a wraparound segment depicted host Mike (Michael J. Nelson) and his robot companions taking a look at an (invented) range of Ernest Borgnine children's books, whose benign titles and presentation belied the frightful nature of the stories therein, with the exception of one which has a macabre appearance but features an innocent story. Another host segment depicted Mike turning into a baby due to his disbelief in magic.


External links[edit]