October 5, 2017

Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders

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A Note from Derek: As you may notice, at least one of the pictures used in this post is from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode of the same name. This is because, although we watched this film completely un-riffed, finding any pictures without the familiar silhouette is (not-so-)surprisingly difficult. It's like people don't recognize this film for the cinematic genius that it clearly is.

This week, Derek and Larry started their month of anthology horror films for October with a flick Derek first discovered on Mystery Science Theater 3000: the Ernest Borgnine tour de force, Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders!

When the power goes out during the climax of what appears to be an awful movie, Grandpa Ernest Borgnine decides that now is the time to attempt to terrify his grandson (Mark Hurtado) with a story that is only marginally connected to the movie the kid was watching, becausew there was a toy monkey in it.

Oh, you want a story? I'll give you a story, you little bastard!
He proceeds to ramble his incoherent nightmares to his young grandson, telling him about Merlin (George Milan) and his wife Zurella (Bunny Summers) moving to modern day Southern California to open a curio shop, probably because there isn't much call for wizarding much these days (whichever days "these" happen to be--more on this later), and Merlin's got bills to pay.

A small boy wanders into Merlin's shop, only to be accosted by a relentlessly cheerful Zurella. When the boy's mother comes in to get him, she is followed by Madeline (Patricia Sansone), a woman who is clearly trapped in a loveless marriage with her sterile and self-important husband, Jonathan Cooper III (John Terrence), a critic for the local Penny Saver who acts like he works for the goddamn New York Times.

Ladies and gentlemen...LEON REDBONE!
Jonathan is unimpressed with Merlin's shop, and loudly proclaims so into a small tape recorder, causing Zurella to drop her facade of cheerfulness; she wants to tear him a new one. Merlin, however, decides that the best way to show Jonathan what the shop is all about is to lend this puckered sphincter of a man Merlin's personal book of spells. He does so with one simple warming: if there is part of a page missing, do not perform the spell.

Jonathan agrees, and he takes Madeline and the book home. Madeline, upset because Jonathan blames their inability to conceive a child together, skulks off to pout in their bedroom, while Jonathan goes to his office in the garage to read the spellbook and mock it relentlessly.

He quickly discovers that the spells are real, accidentally setting his desk on fire in the process, and when he tries to turn his cat into a familiar, he burns it to a crisp, as well. Friggin' muggle.

Accio BOTOX!
As he continues to experiment, he discovers that using the magic causes him to age rapidly (another detail that Grandpa Borgnine pulls directly out of his butt in the middle of the story), so he looks up a spell to reverse the aging process. When he finds one, he discovers that it requires the blood of another human, and pulls Madeline, bed and all, through the ceiling to get some. This could have been super gory, but he basically pokes her with his fingernail and takes a few drops, even taking the time to magically heal the tiny scratch because scar make-up is, apparently, beyond this production's budget.

Chugging the potion, Jonathan goes a little too far and is turned into a baby. Madeline, who only wanted a baby, seems okay with this and decides that she will raise the baby to hopefully not be half-assed blowhard critic for the local paper.

The grandson interrupts Grandpa Borgnine's rambling to point out that there was no toy monkey in this story, so Grandpa pretends like he did that on purpose and starts a new story, making sure to cram a monkey in there, no matter how pointless it will be.

Good news, everybody! It's Michael's (Struan Robertson) birthday! To celebrate, his father David (Bob Mendelsohn) and mother Susan (Vicki Saputo) are throwing him a birthday party! All of Michael's friends--both of them--come over and enjoy playing with Michael's new Star Wars toys, while Michael prefers to play with the gift his mother bought him from a junk shop: one of those creepy mechanical monkeys that screech and crash cymbals together. Even out of the context of a horror movie, those things are just plain disturbing. it also doesn't help that the monkey was, in fact, stolen from Merlin's shop by a homeless guy, who took it to a junk shop to resell.

Anyway, Michael loves his new monkey, and makes it sing the haunting ballad, "Rock and Roll Martian". Over and over again. Really, it can't be done enough.

Aside from being bought from a filthy junk shop, the one big problem with the monkey is that it is super evil and wants to kill everybody. First, it murders a fly, but its bloodlust cannot be quenched, and it slowly starts moving its way up the food chain, killing some plants, a goldfish, and the family dog. And now it wants to taste human blood.

David, suitably concerned his wife bought their some a murder monkey toy, consults with a psychic friend (not endorsed by Dionne Warwick), who says she thinks the monkey is posessed by Satan himself, and the only way to get rid of it is to do an exorcism.

After a near-miss between Michael and a car, David tries to sneakily stuff the monkey into a bag so he can take it to the desert and bury it. Will he be rid of the monkey? Or will it somehow find its way back to them? You'll have to tune in to find out!

Curious George is only curious about one thing: MURDER.
Derek picked this one, and he regrets it. Sure, it was picked because it was awful, but he didn't realize just how much he would hate it without the MST3K guys making fun of it. It was...it was just bad.

Larry is of two minds about it. He agrees that it was bad, but he also thinks it was fun to make fun of. He may have been doing this too long. One thing he certainly agrees on is that "Rock and Roll Martian" should sweep the nation.

So put on your wizard robe, give up on joy, and listen to this week's episode!