Merlin (TV)

Merlin, made for TV, portrays this
magical time with great flair and wonder

There have been many treatments of the Arthurian legend. Most have been rather well done. Merlin, made for TV, portrays this magical time with great flair and wonder. Not until the recent great advances in computer special effects was it possible to truly bring us to a place of magic and fantasy. Steven Barron, of Conehead fame, directs this star studded cast in a well written story that will entertain all members of the family.

The story is told from the point of view of the wizard Merlin, well played by Sam Neill. It covers his long life from birth to extreme old age. During this life he is in constant contention with the last of the great wizard Queens, Maub, portrayed by Miranda Ritchardson. Evil oozes from her is a rasping voice. In contrast is her main servant, Frick, amusingly done by Martin Short. Short deserves special consideration for bring such depth to a character that most would have played in one dimension solely for laughs. Frick becomes the glue that binds the many sub plots together and provides a fresh approach for the viewer. Rounding out the cast is a whos-who of stars. Helena Bonham Carter as Morgan le Fay, Rutger Hauer as the delightfully wicked Lord Vortigern, bent on making the world his plaything. Merlin is rarely the center of the action. He is more the catalyst that drives it. A word here, a spell there propels others into action while Merlin must face the consequences of his actions and inactions.

The special effects become a character in their own right. The magic is not the main thrust of the story but rather, like a gourmet ,meal, add the spice that sets it apart from lesser dishes. The people are human, frail and weak while trying to be bigger or better then they are. The line is often blurred between good and evil but no doubt is left to the absolutes of both. All in all, a tale worth the telling.

The DVD is well done for a made for TV movie. While there is only Dolby 2.0 surround sound the channel separation is better than most presentations in this format. The aspect ration is 1:1.33 a betrays the TV origins. There is a cute animated menu up front that leads to a very well done 'making of' featurette. Considering this movie started on TV it's transfer to DVD is very successful.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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