"Listen to me, Obi-Wan! Either you give me something to write home about, or your quaint little shop is history. Do you hear me, old man? Do you know who I am? *I* am the Supreme Being! I chew places like this up and spit them into the toilet! I'm going to give you one last chance. You prove to me that you're Merlin the Sorcerer... or get off the pot." - Jonathan Cooper

"Merlin was a crack addict fencing VCRs to feed his habit. - Crow T. Robot

Ever wonder what happens when a crazy person pretends to write a children's fantasy story while also trying to plagiarize Stephen King and the Twilight Zone? Well the closest answer is the 1996 film Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders. This movie is directed, produced, and written by Kenneth J. Berton-- which is always a good sign. The "movie" is actually two different movies stitched together with a weak framing device, and its only claim to fame is that it was on a very funny episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

In a setup reminiscent of The Princess bride, a grandfather tells his bored grandson a story of fantasy and magic. Unlike The Princess Bride, there's nothing actually fantastic happening. The story is of Merlin and his wife Zurella who have set up a shop in modern times full of mystic and wonderful items he sells to schmucks stupid enough to buy them. Despite narrator-Grandpa's insistence that Merlin is a good man and the items are meant to help humanity, the only objects we see in the movie are a murderous monkey doll and a spell book with an element of the monkey's paw to it in that it malevolently twists the desires of whoever uses it.

The first story has Merlin and his wife being pestered by an obnoxious newspaper columnist named Jonathan Cooper and his wife, Madeline, who honestly deserves better. Madeline's motivation is that she wants to have a baby and hasn't been able to, and Jonathan's motivation is that he's a narcissistic asshole. Upon finding the shop, Madeline is charmed but Jonathan begins a dick-wagging contest with Merlin. He insults the wizard, questions his credentials, claims that he can have the shop shut down with one of his reviews, and in the end Merlin gives him a book of magic to play with in order to shut him up. Merlin tells him not to use any of the spells and just look at the book to measure its authenticity, but of course that's not going to work.

The couple goes home and, to Jonathan's amazement, the book really does contain magic spells. He fools around with them to gradually worse and worse effects until his inner cat-killing blood-sacrificing maniacal self is revealed. He tries one last spell and finally gets his comeuppance and Madeline gets her wish in the creepiest way possible. . . which is framed as if it is a heartwarming moment, complete with soppy background music playing.

The second story focuses on a man who comes into possession of a malevolent murderous monkey toy Merlin has been keeping safe. Every time the monkey beats its cymbals, something nearby dies, so of course it manages to get into the hands of a little kid. The boy's father, upon realizing the monkey's abilities, spends his part of the movie trying to get rid of it while also protecting his family. Meanwhile, Merlin is also looking for the monkey and literally going round town asking if anyone's seen it.

This movie is ridiculous and the MST3K episode is hilarious. It used to be on youtube for free, but now you'd have to pay a couple bucks to see it. I'd also check out the rifftrax website's MST3K episode section, as they sometimes filter them in and this one might be there soon.

"Merlin, you bastard!" - Jonathan Cooper

Remember to believe in magic, or I'll kill you. - Crow, impersonating Merlin

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