In this classic tale of good and evil the wise old wizard Merlin (Sam Neill) recounts how he and Arthur (Paul Curran) fought to overcome wickedness and defeat Mab, the Queen of Darkness (Miranda Richardson).
When King Constant (John Gielgud), Arthur’s grandfather, was slain by the pagan Vortigern (Rutger Hauer), a civil war broke out.
Merlin was created by the sorceress Mab so the Old Ways would not be forgotten. Merlin refused to be a leader of dark powers, for he was raised by Ambrosia, a believer in the New Religion. At 17, Merlin fell in love with Nimue (Isabella Rossellini). Enraged, Mab allows Merlin to be captured by King Vortigern and imprisoned with Nimue.
Mab persuaded Vortigern to sacrifice Nimue to a fire-breathing dragon. Disfigured by the dragon’s attack, Nimue went into hiding. Merlin helped King Uther defeat Vortigern, but learned Uther was not a good king. Merlin reluctantly agreed to help Uther seduce a married woman, Lady Igraine, under the condition that Merlin could have their first child, to “teach him honor and goodness.” When Arthur was born, Mab immediately put a curse on him.
In part two, Merlin teaches Arthur ethics and morals and takes him to the Mountain King (James Earl Jones) where Arthur extracts the magic sword, Excalibur, from the stone. As the new king, Arthur announces he will build a golden city named Camelot, devoted to peace and charity.
Lady Morgan Le Fey (Helena Bonham Carter), desiring the crown herself, enlists the aid of Mab’s wicked imp, Frik (Martin Short), to seduce Arthur. She bears their evil son, Mordred, the rightful heir to the throne.
Camelot is built, and Arthur marries Guinevere, then travels the world atoning for his sins and searching for the Holy Grail, a cup that has the power to feed the hungry and heal the sick. The Lady of the Lake advises Merlin to find a protector for Guinevere and Camelot during Arthur’s absence. Merlin chooses Sir Lancelot.
Meanwhile, Mab tempts Nimue, promising everlasting beauty if she will lead Merlin into a cave where they can live together. Arthur and Merlin return, finding Camelot in chaos. Lancelot and Guinevere have had an affair forcing Arthur to sentence his wife to burn at the stake, but with Merlin’s help, he allows Lancelot to rescue her. Merlin discovers Nimue has been enchanted by Mab, and doomed to the cave forever.
In a fierce battle, both Mordred and Arthur are killed. The Lady of the Lake reveals Excalibur was meant for Lancelot’s son, Sir Galahad, the one man who is pure of heart and can defeat evil
Mab’s spells are broken, and Nimue is reunited with Merlin. Sir Galahad rides away, triumphantly carrying the Holy Grail.
- Sam Neill
- Helena Bonham Carter
- Rutger Hauer
- Martin Short
- Miranda Richardson
- Sir John Gielgud
- Paul Curran
- Jason Done
- Isabella Rossellini
- James Earl Jones