James Callis (Battlestar Galactica
) is the chief selling point for this medieval fantasy that blends a loose interpretation of the Arthurian legend with a horde of CGI monsters and special effects. Callis, whose brooding Baltar was one of the many reasons to fall for Ronald Moore's Galactica
, brings a similar level of intensity to his turn as the wizard Merlin, who joins forces with the daughter of Arthur (Laura Harris), an aging Sir Galahad, and the son of Tristan and Isolde to oppose an evil sorcerer (Jim Thorburn) intent on destroying what remains of Camelot with the titular book of magic. The book, as its name indicates, can summon up all manner of evil creatures, from snake-haired Gorgons and reptile-faced soldiers to a swarm of killer butterflies; the problem is that the quality of the effects used to conjure the monsters is no match for the Harryhausen-esque concepts behind them. Callis gives the strongest performance, and is the sole reason to view the film, though he's decided to adopt a husky tone that occasionally renders him unintelligible; Laura Harris, an otherwise fine actress, is totally miscast as Arthur's sword-wielding progeny. The widescreen DVD includes a brief and forgettable behind-the-scenes featurette as well as the trailer for Dead Space: Downfall
. --Paul Gaita
Stills from Merlin and the Book of Beasts (Click for larger image)
Welcome to the dark side of Camelot: King Arthur is gone. The Round Table is in ruins. And a rogue sorcerer has unleashed a reign of monstrous terror upon the land. For the court’s last remaining knights, their only hope lies in the power of the now-bitter and broken wizard Merlin (James Callis of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA). But can a once-great man of magic defeat a legion of creatures that includes Dragon Soldier, Death Hawks and Gorgons, and still reclaim the legendary castle of lore? Laura Harris of DEAD LIKE ME and 24 co-stars in this epic adventure that puts a savage new edge on the saga of Excalibur, Mordred and the ultimate battle between MERLIN AND THE BOOK OF BEASTS.