Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

Genre: Adventure and Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 44 min.

Release Date: June 19th, 1963 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Don Chaffey Actors: Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond, Laurence Naismith, Niall MacGinnis, Michael Gwynn, Douglas Wilmer, Jack Gwillim, Honor Blackman, Patrick Troughton, Nigel Green

 


 

W

arlord Pelias (Douglas Wilmer), watched over by king of the gods Zeus, has a holy man prophesy his successful overthrow of King Aristo of Thessaly. Queen Hera (Honor Blackman) interrupts his conquest by explaining the rest of the prognostication, which includes revenge against Pelias by Aristo’s son, Jason (“the man with one sandal”). By Zeus’ decree, the queen is allowed to help Jason five times during his subsequent quest for justice (or retribution). Twenty years later, Jason (Todd Armstrong) returns to reclaim his rightful throne, but coincidentally rescues a drowning man – Pelias, who purposely keeps his identity veiled.

Pelias convinces Jason to journey to the edge of the world in search of a prize of the gods, a golden fleece that is rumored to rid lands of plague and famine, before revealing himself as the Thessaly tyrant. On Mount Olympus, where the gods toy with mankind’s battles and voyages, Jason is brought by Hermes (Michael Gwynn) to speak with Zeus and Hera, who inform him of the fleece’s existence and its whereabouts in the region of Colchis. Jason hosts athletic competitions across Greece, recruiting champions from Syracuse, Athens, and Sparta, including even Hercules himself (Nigel Green), selecting only the finest crew members for his mission. Lastly, he speaks with Argos (Laurence Naismith), who constructs the mighty ship “Argo,” adorned with the masthead decoration of Hera’s face – for predicaments requiring hasty prayers. The quest won’t be easy, especially when unearthly forces impede their progress, and sabotage from unwitting and determined sailors alike threaten the band from reaching their destination.

Associate producer Ray Harryhausen, creator of the legendary special visual effects, provides the colossal stop-motion statue of titan Talos; blue, reptilian harpies (which, aside from their batlike wings, could have been human female actors); the seven-headed, two-tailed hydra; and an army of skeleton warriors (an elaboration on the previous efforts of the first Sinbad movie, resulting in a stimulating, climactic battle). Their introductions generally involve the gods meddling with human decisions and actions, demonstrating a flawed story that is essentially just a series of magic-laden engagements, which culminates in an open-ended, to-be-continued type of finale (with absolutely no explanation as to the outcome of Thessaly’s ruler and Jason’s avengement). It’s as if the script was written to be the first part of, perhaps, a trilogy. Ultimately, however, it’s the monsters and skirmishes that become the main attraction, so audiences aren’t likely to be disappointed by the absence of resolution and plot.

Visually amusing creations – some utilized for momentary tormenting, others for large scale combat – distract from the swordfight choreography that isn’t entirely convincing, the high priestess Medea’s (Nancy Kovack) spontaneous betrayal of her country, and conversations between Jason and his spontaneous love interest (again, Medea) that are devoid of believable chemistry. To the same purpose, popular composer Bernard Herrmann conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for the soundtrack, which summons a few whimsical melodies for swords-and-sandals excitement. Supplementary notes augment thrills and fight sequences, but no grandly memorable themes stand out. This is somewhat surprising, considering Herrmann’s work on “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,” which boasts an instantly recognizable score. In the end, while “Jason and the Argonauts” is a worthy addition to the series of fantasy films adorned with Harryhausen’s animation, the characters and creatures do not make the list of his most iconic concoctions.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10


The Complete Ray Harryhausen


The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)

Mysterious Island (1961)

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

First Men in the Moon (1964)

One Million Years B.C. (1967)

The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)

Clash of the Titans (1981)