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Cult Movie Essentials: Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders (1996)

Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is a 1996 film starring Ernest Borgnine. In spite of what the title might imply, this is more of a horror film than a child-friendly fantasy movie. Borgnine plays 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.

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 monkeys 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 boys house. But before the monkey’s cymbals are struck, Merlin shows up and takes the toy back to his shop.

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