Jason and the Argonauts (1963)


(director: Don Chaffey; screenwriters: Beverly Cross/Jan Read/based on the poem “The Argonautica” by Apollonious Rhodios; cinematographer: Wilkie Cooper; editor: Maurice Rootes; music: Bernard Herrmann; cast: Todd Armstrong (Jason), Nancy Kovack (Medea), Gary Raymond (Acastus), Nigel Green (Hercules), Laurence Naismith (Argus), Douglas Wilmer (King Pelias), Niall MacGinnis (Zeus), Honor Blackman (Hera), Jack Gwillim (King Acetes), Patrick Troughton (Phineas), Michael Gwynn (Hermes), Douglas Wilmer (Pelias), Andrew Faulds (Phalerus); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Charles H. Schneer; Columbia; 1963-UK)

“It mostly comes alive through the imaginative special effects by Ray Harryhausen, the maven of stop-motion animation.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Fun-loving classic Greek mythological adventure tale geared for the kiddies, that’s too bumpy to be a smooth ride but its tongue-in-cheek storytelling and its visually spectacular rendering of its mythological setting leave it many golden moments. It mostly comes alive through the imaginative special effects by Ray Harryhausen, the maven of stop-motion animation. Harryhausen’s superb special effects, perhaps his best ever, include the building of a fine replica of the mythical ship the Argo, a lifelike version of the titan metal god Talos, the fluttery screeching bat-winged battling Harpies that plague the blind prophet Phineas (Patrick Troughton), the ‘crashing rocks’ through which the hero’s ship must cross, a menacing seven-headed Hydra that the hero must fight and the centerpiece sword fight with the hero and an army of skeletons who emerge out of the teeth of Hydra. Director Don Chaffey (“Pete’s Dragon”/”The Viking Queen”/”A Twist of Sand”) keeps a firm grip on steering it through a series of colorful action sequences with its bland hero at the helm. It’s based on the poem “The Argonautica” by Apollonious Rhodios and the screenplay is penned by Beverly Cross and Jan Read.

On Mt. Olympus, the Greek god Zeus (Niall MacGinnis) and the Queen goddess Hera (Honor Blackman) witness the slaying of King Aeson of Thessaly by his ambitious and ruthless half-brother Pelias (Douglas Wilmer), who then kills his victim’s two baby daughters but his baby son Jason escapes. Jason (Todd Armstrong) is raised by his father’s loyal subjects and comes of age to return to Thessaly as a skilled warrior to take back his rightful throne. After Jason saves the life of Pelias from drowning, whom he doesn’t recognize, he’s sent by the cunning Pelias on a quest to bring back the Golden Fleece (sheep’s wool made of gold) so that the people will accept him knowing the gods favor him. Pelia figures that Jason will never return alive from this impossible mission.

Jason gets Argo to build him a ship and he hires a crew of the best fighters in Thessaly by having a competition and Hera, who received the prayers of one of Jason’s sisters before she was slain, as a reciprocation for that act of faith will be Jason’s protector for only five times and clues him in that he can find the Golden Fleece on the other side of the world on the island of Colchis. The brave lad is undaunted as he goes through a series of adventures to reach his destination and must also overcome Acastus (Gary Raymond), a spy Pelias sent on the journey to make sure that Jason’s quest meets with failure. When Jason and the Argonauts finally land on Colchis, they must overcome the opposition of King Aeëtes (Jack Gwillim) to accomplish their mission of removing the Golden Fleece. Fortunately for Jason, the high-priestess Medea (Nancy Kovack) falls in love with him and goes against her kingdom to free him from prison so he can successfully snatch the prized Golden Fleece–an object of worship that has healing power and can bring peace.

The film also comes with a rousing score by Bernard Herrmann, that evidently pleased many but didn’t do much for me.


REVIEWED ON 7/24/2008 GRADE: B   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/