Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

“The gods want their entertainment.”

Synopsis:
In ancient Greece, Jason (Todd Armstrong) gathers together a group of strong and talented “argonauts” — including Hercules (Nigel Green) — to accompany him on a quest for a “golden fleece”, and eventually falls in love with the sorceress Medea (Nancy Kovack). Along the way he’s aided by Queen Hera (Honor Blackman), who quibbles with her husband, Zeus (Niall MacGinnis), up on Mount Olympus.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “Ray Harryhausen’s spectacular special effects highlight this marvelous fantasy-adventure”, directed “by Don Chaffey with equal amounts of wit and excitement” and “beautifully filmed by Wilkie Cooper” with “the mysterious blue ocean, white sandy beaches, and strange rock formations found around Palinuro, Italy and the actual Greek temples found in Paestrum” giving “the picture historical authenticity” — and “Bernard Herrmann’s score giv[ing] grandeur to the production.” Peary writes that “Beverly Cross’s imaginative, literate script keeps the story on a high intellectual plane so that it will appeal to adults as well as kids”: this “film is about the decision by Man, as represented by Jason, to choose his own life’s course, to challenge the gods’ unfair laws, to no longer be frightened by the gods into blind obedience” — with some amusingly droll “marital squabbles between MacGinnis and Blackman” sprinkled throughout for levity.

However, at the front and center of this story — naturally — are Harryhausen’s special effects. Peary writes that “it’s just amazing how believable the movements of his creatures are”, and gives kudos to the excellent “composite photography”. He calls out his own favorite moments as “the ‘Clashing Rocks’ sequence when huge bearded Triton, his fishtail flopping in the ocean, emerges from the water, holds the mountains apart, and watches the Argo sail under his arm; and, of course, the truly stupendous climactic swordfighting-skeletons sequence — Harryhausen’s ultimate achievement.” I can’t disagree with either of these choices, though I would add in how thrilling it is to watch the giant statue of Talos coming to life, and to see the gruesome harpies relentlessly plaguing blind Phineus (Patrick Troughton) finally caught and caged.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The amusing quibbling and game-playing between Hera and Zeus
  • Many memorable special effects and stop-motion sequences


  • Bernard Herrmann’s score

Must See?
Yes, as an enjoyable Harryhausen outing with some truly impressive special effects.

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2 Responses to “Jason and the Argonauts (1963)”

  1. Definitely a must see for any self respecting film buff.

    Far and away Harryhausen’s magnum opus; great cast, great SPFX, great score (Bernard Hermann) and fine direction (Don Chaffey).

    A true cinema classic.

  2. A once-must for budding ffs, watching with their ff elders.

    This isn’t a personal favorite in the Harryhausen library but it’s effective-enough for its purposes.

    This may be the only time that I’ve seen the character of Hercules presented on-screen as something of a jerk. And I’m a bit confused by the purpose of the undead skeleton army: the one who conjures them up already has a small army of men with him to fight against Jason and his men – so why call on the skeletons?, except that they’re scary-looking for the finale.

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