Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders (1996)

This movie might start with Ernest Borgnine as a grandfather telling his grandchild two stories of Merlin opening a magic shop like a page from The Princess Bride, yet this ends up being a horror movie more than something to watch with your kids.

Jonathan and Madeline Cooper are a married couple that have been having trouble having a child. Jonathan’s newspaper column takes him to Merlin’s new store and he has trouble believing that the old man running the place is really the Merlin of legend. So Merlin decides to give the man his spellbook, which seems to be the worst idea if you’re a magic user, but this allows the writer to see Satan, breathe fire and begin to age every time he casts a spell. He also attempts to make his cat into a demonic servant, but that goes wrong and he has to breathe fire to stop — and kill — the feline. At the end, when he tries to become young again, the spell goes wrong and ends up giving Madeline what she always wanted: a baby.

The second story is a bit close to Stephen King’s “The Monkey,” as a thief steals one of those cymbal playing monkey toys, except that every time the monkey makes a noise, someone dies. This entire sequence is really the 1984 film The Devil’s Gift, which was also made by writer/director Kenneth J. Berton. Tons of that movie got cut out and Merlin was added to the end so that it doesn’t have the ending where the entire family dies. As it is, this monkey kills a bunch of pets, so if you love the animals in your life this movie may not be for you.

Why would Merlin have a store in a strip mall? Who would make this movie? Why would they think kids would want to watch it?

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