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42 out of 43 people found the following review useful:

The most confusing, disturbing family film ever

Author: JeffG. from Boston, MA
14 September 1999

This "movie" seems to be little more than several different movies patched together. And in a sense, it is. Things start out with some old lady at an ouiji board whose house catches fire. Then after about six minutes, it turns out this is just some TV show some kid is watching while his grandfather (Ernest Borgnine in what may be the lowest point of his career since "The Devil's Rain") sits on a couch nearby. When the power in the house goes out Grandpa Borgnine proceeds to tell the kid some fractured and disturbing story loosely connected to Merlin the Magician, who has transported himself to the present day and opened a shop. Despite being the title character, Merlin does little in the movie except release evil artifacts into the world and collect them later while getting nagged by his irritating wife (If that's what she is. Their relationship is never really made clear in the movie).

The first part of this fractured story involves a cranky newspaper reviewer who is unimpressed with Merlin's shop and threatens Merlin with a most vicious review. Merlin retaliates by giving him a book of spells which turns the obnoxious reviewer into an old man and then a baby. Merlin's revenge, I guess.

The second tale involves an evil toy monkey who gets stolen from Merlin's shop and ends up being bought by a family from the early 1980's. The monkey has the ability to cause untold damage and evil by clapping the little cymbals in its hands. This segment was actually a 20 minute excerpt from a movie from 1984 called "The Devil's Gift" which was then clumsily inserted into this film. This is why this particular tale has no setup or conclusion, making the movie even more confusing than it already was. "The Devil's Gift" is apparently out of print and hopefully they won't use the MST3K exposure as an excuse to reissue it.

Along the way, a goldfish dies, a cat is burned alive, a trapped dog dies after inhaling toxic smoke from a fire set in the garage and a woman has a rather frank conversation with her friend about her fertilization problems which has left her unable for her and her cranky husband to have a baby. And this is supposed to be a kid's film! This is either the darkest kids film ever or the most ineffective horror film ever. If you really want to give the kids nightmares, show them this movie before sending them to bed.

This movie will most likely be remembered as the "lost" episode of MST3K. The airing of this particular episode was delayed five months because of rights problems with the movie. After watching this movie, I have to wonder why any sane person would actually want the rights to this stinkburger in the first place! Just another painful reminder of how much we'll miss MST3K.

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41 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

Excruciatingly Painful

Author: Chris Winston from Fairbanks, U.S. Territory of Alaska
21 July 2001

Out of my entire life thus far, through severe heartbreak and some minor jailtime included, this was about 90 of the WORST minutes of my life. What boggles my mind is how it could have so many votes of "10" - give me a break!!! I give this a -235. MST3K is definitely the choice version, otherwise you'd be better off killing yourself than watching this.

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28 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

Merlin's Shop of Miserable CRAP.

Author: zmaturin from Pleasant Valley, USA
17 September 1999

Films don't get any cheaper than this stitched together piece of padding, in which retired screenwriter/grandpa Ernest Borgnine relates "sweet" bedtime stories about the legendary Merlin (Yes, that Merlin. Merlin probably changed management after doing this movie) to his world-weary, seven year old grandson. Grandpa Borgnine's sweet, folksy, suitable for children tales are chock full of horrible death, crying children, murdered house pets, and abusive husbands, plus a fun cameo by Satan himself!

The makers of this film probably didn't realize that their kiddy movie wasn't kid-like at all- because the bulk of the "stories" are footage from some other mid-to-late seventies movie about a killer monkey toy. Despite all the ugliness in these segments, there is a charming moment where a young boy happily sings "Rock and Roll Martian" to the stuffed monkey. This is probably the best scene in the whole, feature length movie.

The other story segment, the one with the bickering, self-hating couple who can't conceive (kids love those kinds of stories!) has all the style and substance of an episode of "Monsters".

This movie is filled to the brim by horrible acting, atrocious dialog, and some of the most laughable editing since Ed Wood's legendary day/night/day scenes.

So don't hesitate to watch this movie.... if it comes on the late, great Mystery Science Theater 3000. Otherwise, you've been warned! ROCK AND ROLL MARTIAN!!

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23 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Mystically mind numbing

Author: InzyWimzy from Queens, NY
6 October 2000

Ernest Borgnine is a great storyteller. I think the boy suffered from random epileptic seizures after this film was made.

This is awful. Merlin has decided to join the business world and has opened his shop of yore. Run by him and Mrs. Merlin, they first must deal with a cynical critic who threatens to ruin the shop's business. Good old Merlin gives him a book of evil wizardry. After fire breathing, cat from hell, levitating, and so on, the critic learns that this film has aged him (he's not alone).

The second half is a rip-off of the monkey's paw, except in this case it's a duracell running monkey toy with cymbals. Ha ha. Of course, someone buys it as a present for a little boy and that's when the fun starts. One of the only saving moments is when Merlin goes around asking, "Have you seen my monkey?" Hee hee, that one always works!

Merlin's gift be avoided at all costs.

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19 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Bleeding Ulcer Among Movie's.

Author: evenbiggerchips from America
5 June 2004

This movie is among one of the worst anyone has ever seen. Even Plan 9 from Outer Space has its funny points (all-be-them not intentional.) This movie is perhaps one of the worst movies ever made. From a film point of view, the movie has no tangible benefits what so ever. The film starts out with a grandfather telling a child a story about Merlin. What he failed to mention to his grandson is that Merlin is a complete and utter bumbling old man with a wife reminiscent of Roseanne. The movie then goes to show Merlin and his magical shop, and then, it goes to a completely different setting, and switches back and forth between Merlin's shop, and the different settings of the story. Both stories are supposed to be about " How the people find folly in there own pathetic human ways and are grateful to Merlin." When they are really about " How that old weirdo screwed us over and destroyed our families forever with his stupid shop." You might say " Well didn't Merlin warn them?" Yes, I'm sure he did, but them being stereo typical 80's men and women, where magic cannot exist and " Dollar Good', they of course did not listen. In the end, this movie is only recommended to those who enjoy mind-numbing stupidity and rip offs of other poorly made movies. ( I.E. Dead Time Stories, Troll 2.) This movie receives a 2, and that's only because of the pity felt for the fact it cannot be shot and put out of its misery.

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18 out of 23 people found the following review useful:


Author: biffchucklehead from michigan
17 June 2003

This is a truly magical episode of MST3K. Though the movie itself is stupid beyond telling, the episode is arguable the most funny I`ve ever seen. My dad thinks it is anyhow. From the opening lines thrown out by Mike and the `Bots ("Let`s predict some crap" "I forsee I`m gonna get hammered" "Is there a cheaper vodka than Popov?" "The ants have been screwing with her like that for years") to the part when Jonathan confronts Merlin ("I bid you lick me") to when Jonathan fights his cat ("So the cat`s flesh was roasted" "No Grandpa, no!" "Sit down, you`re gonna listen- The cat`s flesh melted, the horrible screams!" "No grandpa!" "Heh heh") to the cheesy 80s part ("Yep, that first morning beer is always the best!") and the priceless finishing line, which is so memorable that it begs full transcription. Contrary to what some of these commentators have said here (and I`m not blaming them), Crow, not Servo, says "Remember to believe in magic...Or I`ll kill you." This episode truly made me believe in magic.

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12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:


Author: Golgothae from Norway
10 April 2004

Really....this is a hilarious MST3K episode...this film must have been made for MST3K one would like to think. But as that is not the case I can only say: WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?! How did this movie ever get made? I love bad movies...but this is something beyond anything I've ever seen. THat it's from 1996 is also something I cannot believe. Who in their right mind joins a project like this? The biggest mystery in this movie is how the hell someone authorized it and got actors to actually play in it (of course..not all of them seem to do so) This is just ...a huge mystery of a film. I thank MST3K for showing it to me. It's really a gem amongst hugely crappy films. It's nice to see how bad a movie actually can get. Someone should really have made documentary about this movie and interviewed the people behind it. It would really solve one of the worlds biggest mysteries. Even the title of the movie is totally messed up. It should be "MERLIN'S SHOP OF KILLER TOYS" But..oh that would probably make it seem more predictable...uhm?

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Remember to believe in magic...or I'll kill you!

Author: Jesse Barboza ( from Rochester, NY
9 November 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's hard to classify this atrocity. It's not really a fantasy, it's not very dramatic, and it most certainly isn't a family film. However, it is the type of film that's just begging to be torn to shreds on "Mystery Science Theater 3000", and fortunately, the folks at Best Brains turned this dog into Experiment 1003.

Ernest Borgnine reaches the lowest point of his career as the narrator of a soul-scarring television movie he apparently wrote years ago. Now, keep in mind that he's telling this to his young grandson (who's still sharp enough to pick out a couple of plot holes). Apparently, Merlin decided that he wasn't moving enough merchandise in the Dark Ages, so he packed up and moved to 1996, setting up "shop" in an unidentified city. Entertaining a kid who suffers from bouts of slow-motion, Merlin is approached by an uppity reviewer for the local paper who sports a superiority complex and a wife who he hates for not being able to get pregnant (again, this story's being told to a kid). So the guy takes Merlin's magic book of spells and plans to demolish it with a strongly-worded review, but only ends up turning his cat into a ruthless hellbeast, then proceeds to light the animal on fire (again, there's an eight-year-old listening to this story). The guy ages a hundred years, rips off Humphrey Bogart, then turns into a baby, much to his wife's delight. So somehow, he's his own father.

And now for something completely different. One of Merlin's most demonic possessions, a cymbal-clanging toy monkey (I always knew those things were evil) ends up being bought by a family from 1984. The young son, sporting googly-eye glasses and happily singing about the Rock and Roll Martian, is blissfully unaware that every time the monkey clanks its little cymbals (in the hopes that somebody somewhere is playing "The 1812 Overture"), some living thing in the house snuffs it. It starts when the dad notices that all the houseplants are dead (another issue - since when does a man notice a plant in the house?). Then an exploding lightbulb and an unattended pan of motor oil results in the fiery death of the family dog (remember, the little kid's still listening to this). With advice from his homicidal psychic friend, the dad tries everything he can to eradicate the plastic simian, if "everything" involves knocking it into a paper bag with a vacuum cleaner. But no, evil always finds a way, and the monkey keeps making it back to the 1980s. Merlin spends much of his time back in 1996 walking the streets, asking women if they've seen his little monkey.

It amazes me that someone on the production crew watched the final product and said "Hey, that's good, let's release it." If this was intended for the family market, then all parties concerned failed miserably, as the story flips back and forth between mundane and terrifying. But it offers a thousand good chances for being made fun of, and Michael J. Nelson and crew took those chances eagerly. Thank God.

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

How NOT to edit a film.....

Author: Angel Meiru
31 December 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I remember seeing a recent MST3K episode featuring this "Merlin" movie, and oy, I got to tell you, the editor of this film should be fired (or sued by Stephen King for using one of his short stories in this movie).

There are two plots dealing with Merlin, the sorceror, or as Ernest Borgnine told us. One story actually has Merlin interacting with people and the other one only has him just asking people for his toy monkey *snickers*. The rest and the intro of the film is basically stock footage from "The Devil's Gift" which is (from what I have heard) based off of Stephen King's "The Monkey", featured in his short story collection "The Skeleton Crew".

And speaking of "The Devil's Gift", I saw the version uncut in a Jr. High English class, and though the film was not very memorable, the ending was. Originally, in the end of "The Devil's Gift", the whole family dies, including the hyperactive little brat. However, in "Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders", they poorly edit that, making it look like Merlin saved them, which never happens (if you listen in the background, you can hear the family screaming in agony).

This film should be shown in a motion picture class at school, as an example on how NOT to edit a film.

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12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Not the worst ever film since I was involved with it.

Author: lee_sjostrom from Canada
21 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My sister and I were credited with 'production design' for this movie so I actually know quite a bit about how and why this movie was made... It took, I think, 5 years to shoot and was totally paid for by Ken Berton. A lot of the furniture and props in the film were from my home or from my prop garage... I had to admire Ken for his tenacity in actually and eventually getting the film in the can. His marriage ended due to his obsession with it and I think that the last letter I got from him mentioned that he'd had to declare bankruptcy. That was in response to my insisting that my sister and I get paid for the work that we had done for the film. We have yet to be paid, and shortly before I moved back to Canada from LA, I stopped bugging him.

The movie must have been cursed because the last day/night of the shoot caused my sister's return to Canada, and her not speaking to me for nearly four years, until I myself returned to Canada. My sister and I went to the premiere together, and we were totally surprised to see Ernest Borgnine telling the story to the little boy. That part of the shoot we hadn't been involved in and Ken told us it was a last minute type decision to cement the different segments of the feature together... After a few years, I finally got a couple of copies of the film, but the memory of the shoot was so painful for me that I have never even opened the shrink wrap to the copies that I have. Neither has my sister. Is it possible that they may be collectors items one day?... I also helped with some of the special effects and with the make-up...

Yes, it was a very, very LOW budget film and I learned a lot from it, and I thank ken for that. I didn't think that it was the worst film ever, since I've seen much worse with much higher budgets.


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