Ah yes Merlin. There are of course a number of variations on the theme and the characters sometimes change around. For example in the BBC’s Merlin with Colin Morgan, Nimue was an evil b*&^h yet in this version she was Merlin’s “true love.” Ages vary as well, in the BBC version again Merlin and Arthur are about the same age, yet in this version Merlin is clearly a lot older than Arthur (nothing wrong with the BBC Merlin by the way, it’s very good, but that’s for another review sometime.)
This offering is a 2 part mini-series from Channel 4 television coming in at nearly 3 hours long. Sam Neill (The Dish) stars as Merlin who from birth is being “prepared” by Queen Mab to become a master wizard and save the “old ways” and magic from dying out in the evolving world; Mab is played by Miranda Richardson (Blackadder 2 “whose queen?” Other characters are Frik (Mab’s Assistant), Morgan Le Fay, Mordred and the inevitable Lancelot and Guinevere. Nimue is played by the truly wonderful Isabella Rossellini, Morgan Le Fay by the equally wonderful Helena Bonham carter, both outstanding actresses in my opinion.
All the usual plot elements are in there, the struggle for the throne, the sword in the stone, building Camelot, round tables etc. The story is very good and very enjoyable and unlike some other versions of the Merlin story you can see that Merlin is not infallible and does indeed make mistakes which I considered to be a nice twist.
Now to the DVD itself. The Cinema Club release (now part of 2Entertain), production of these ceased quite some time ago but you can pick it up relatively easily second-hand and the occasional new one pops up here and there, we ourselves have a handful of these. It was later rereleased by Boulevard Entertainment (aka Hollywood DVD and other numerous “budget” labels) and you may see that around, however, I’d recommend the Cinema Club version simply because Boulevard titles are budget for a reason, something has to be compromised and it’s probably overall quality.
It’s an exceptionally good title all round and on the whole pretty family friendly, nothing particularly gory and the most frightening thing is probably a dragon breathing fire on one part if you’ve got little children. You could do far worse than put this on the TV Christmas day after lunch when you’re all slobbed out