Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

For whatever reason, if The Asylum or the Sci-Fi Channel or some random independent film producer releases some kind of medieval type, dragon type, King Arthur type movie I’m like first in line to watch it. I don’t even care for that stuff, at least consciously, but there I be. Maybe its some kind of ‘Excalibur’ residue or something, but doggonnit, that movie came out darn near thirty years ago so I should be over that by now. Lord knows that these Asylum, Sci-Fi channel movies have been doing their best to cure me of this apparent affliction I suffer from. That being said it would seem I’m still not totally cured because when I saw the DVD for the Sci-Fi Channel original ‘Merlin and the Book of Beasts’… I got it and I watched it. Yes I did. But at last I think the spell has broken my friends… I am finally free of bad medieval dragon, King Arthur films. Thanks Merlin!

Our film opens with some evil looking dude holding an evil looking book while sitting in a harmless little village. We know he’s evil because he’s wearing a black hoodie. Evil. He opens his evil book, says some evil words and releases a malicious stream of evil butterflies to kill these harmless villagers. Dude has created evil butterflies… can’t get much more evil than that.

Forward ahead a little bit where we ride with an elderly Sir Galahad (Donald Adams), his son Lysenor (Jesse Moss) and knight Tristan (Patrick Sabongui), the child of Tristan and Isolde. Also along for the ride is another knight but this knight is wearing a knight helmet… I’m sure there’s a proper name for this but hell if I know what it is… and traditional knight chainmail. Why is this? So we won’t see that this knight has boobies, but I totally peeped them boobies. Our travelers are attempting to find Merlin (James Callis) for the land is in danger and only Merlin’s magic can save them. Unfortunately for our travelers they fall into one of Merlin’s protective traps, except

for the knight with the boobies, who defeats this trap but now must face the wrath of Merlin. Who is this shapely knight? She would be Avlynn Pendragon (Laura Harris)… that’s right, the daughter of Arthur and Guinevere. I thought legend had it that Lancelot was tapping Guinevere too so she might be Lancelot’s daughter but this movie chose not to go there, especially since Avlynn and Galahad’s son Lysenor have a little love thing going on and that would’ve been just plain nasty.

Merlin is resistant at first but soon realizes he was just wasting away in those woods and joins our travelers to defeat this evil, but this evil is something else indeed. Mordred (Jim Thorburn), Arthur’s illegitimate son has returned and considering he now possesses the evil Book of Beasts, he has the destruction of man on his mind. Now it’s up to our four Knights and our washed up sorcerer to take back Camelot, find Excalibur, defeat the hottest Medusa (Maja Stace-Smith) you’ll ever see (ignore that box cover) and stop Mordred from having sex with his half sister. Seriously, he wants to do his sister. That’s just plain nasty.

I probably shouldn’t be too hard on ‘Merlin and the Book of Beasts’ because it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. It was bargain basement cheap considering some of the effects that director Warren P. Sonada thrust on us, that’s for sure, it took some rather incredible and often outlandish liberties with the legend of King Arthur that would certainly upset anyone who cherishes those old stories, and despite the fact there was plenty of action to be had most of the action was incredibly dull and lackluster for the most part. It didn’t help that a lot of the action was filmed in super slo-mo when what it really needed was to be filmed in super fast-mo to make it look light our knights and knightettes knew what the hell they were doing with those big-ass swords they were dragging along.

But what keeps ‘Merlin and the Book of Beasts’ from being absolutely Sci-Fi Original terrible is James Callis and his performance as Merlin. Admittedly his choice of Merlin’s vocal intonation, something akin to an intelligent version of The Cookie Monster, was a bit odd… but my man James Callis sure can deliver a line. He was able to make bad dialog sound okay and okay dialog sound damn good. That’s acting talent right there. Actor Patrick Sabongui possesses a bit of heroic screen presence as Tristan the Knight and though I’m not familiar with Medusa’s snake head sisters Minerva (Megan Vincent) and Moira (Monique Ganderton) they sure were plenty hot, serpent hair and all. True Mordred wasn’t a very frightening villain and we like Laura Harris a lot more as a spoiled dead movie star than a badass Knight of the Roundtable, but whaddayagonnado?

However, despite some decent things that keeps this from sinking to the level of say… Raptor Island… it is still a prototypical relatively poorly done Sci-Fi Original and it has succeeded in curing me of my low budget King Arthur affliction. At least until the next one comes out.

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