Monday, October 8, 2012

MST3K: Episode 1003 - Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders

I'm watching all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes in order. More about that here and here.

Episode 1003: Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders

First aired: Sci-Fi Channel on 18 September 1999
Availability: Amazon DVD (Volume 5), Rhino (Volume 5/out of print)

They magically made a movie out of this stuff.
When I began this long project of watching all of the MST3K episodes, I started watching them in the order the episodes aired. The only time I've varied from that was the movie.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 - The Movie was released during Season Seven, but for the sake of continuity, I placed it between Season Six and Season Seven.

You see, TV's Frank left at the end of Season Six, Mother Forrester came on in Season Seven, and Dr. Forrester left at the end of Season Seven. In The Movie, the antagonist is Dr. Forrester alone. When would that have happened? After Frank left and before Mrs. Forrester arrived. So, between Season Six and Season Seven.

Grandpa Borgnine looks on.
Apart from that, though, I've covered the episodes in the order they aired ... and The Movie isn't really an episode.

Then, during the final season, this episode happened.

It was supposed to be the third episode shown, but then ... something ... happened. There was a legal issue, and Sci-Fi decided not to air the episode until things were cleared up. By the time 8 August 1999 rolled around, it still was unresolved and they aired the series finale. Then, five weeks later, things were cleared up and they aired this episode.

Since the finale actually wrapped the series, resolving the whole "stranded in space" thing, this one was treated kinda like a lost episode. Which it kinda was.

"Rock and Roll Martian!"
Anyway, this is why I'm varying from air-date order. Like I did the movie, I'm placing this one as close as I can to air-date order while maintaining continuity. It probably should come where it was intended, as the third episode, but, since it aired much later than that, but the continuity has it before the finale, I'm covering it right before the series finale.

After being held from airing when it was supposed to, when it finally did air, it aired eight time from 1999 to 2003. I saw several of those airings. I'm not sure if I saw the first airing. I did miss the finale in August of that year, but don't remember when it was I saw this episode.

It's an evil monkey toy.
The reason for the legal issue? Well, this isn't just a movie. It's one of those thrown-together things. You take a piece of this and a piece of that and, voilà, you have a movie.

There was a film in 1984 called The Devil's Gift. It was about a cymbal-crashing monkey toy that caused things to die. If that sounds kinda like one of the short stories in Stephen King's Skeleton Crew then you're no monkey. The similarity to The Monkey -- the Skeleton Crew story in question -- kinda held things up. It got resolved somehow, or they finally said the heck with it. Either way, they finally aired this episode.

Merlin and Mrs. Merlin.
Oh, about The Devil's Gift. In that story, everybody died or got possessed or something. About a third of the scenes from that movie were pieced together to form a slightly different story. That was one of the stories that made up Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders and this episode.

A kid is staying up late watching horror movies on TV under supervision of Grandpa Ernest Borgnine, but a storm knocks out the lights, so Grandpa Borgnine starts telling the kid a story about Merlin the Magician and a toy monkey like was in the horror movie the kid was watching, only Merlin lives in the 20th century, and a childless couple enters the store, and there's a subplot about them wanting a child but she can't conceive or his sperm are too stuck-up to enter or something, but he's a trinket store critic for the local paper and calls Merlin names, so Merlin gives him a book of spells, and the critic finds out the spells are real after he fries the cat, but he grows old, but finds a youth spell, steals blood from his wife, and turns himself into a baby, solving her whole can't have a baby problem, but the kid isn't satisfied with Grandpa's story since it's a two-hour show and only half-way over, so Grandpa Borgnine tells the story of the monkey toy being stolen by a crackhead or something, and it ends up being given as a gift to some kid by Toni Tennille, who is John McEnroe's girlfriend or something, but McEnroe figures out the monkey is evil and tries to throw it away, but it kills the dog, the fish, a fly, and some plants, and nearly kills everyone else, but the editor saves them, Grandpa's kid falls asleep, Grandpa chuckles, and the movie, mercifully, ends. The end.

Bobo, the killer monkey toy.
There are a couple of fun Host Segments, like the one featuring other Ernest Borgnine storybooks, the one where Mike gets turned into a baby, and the one that has Bobo becoming evil monkey toy.

The movie, while not a good movie, is certainly watchable. Ernest Borgnine? He's good in anything. This episode? It's a good one.

For many MST3K fans, this one was odd because the show had ended. The finale had aired and the whole stuck in space thing had been resolved. For me, though, that wasn't the case. I had missed the finale, so, when I saw this episode all those years ago, it wasn't out-of-place for me.

Oh, and, as of my re-watching this episode for this project, I still haven't seen the finale. Not all of it, at least. When I cover it next, it will be after my first viewing of it.

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