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Jason And The Argonauts (1963)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
Genres:
Adventure, Fantasy, Fantasy Adventure, Mythological Fantasy, Sea Adventure
Director:
Don Chaffey Don Chaffey
Starring:
Todd Armstrong Todd Armstrong
Nancy Kovack Nancy Kovack
Gary Raymond Gary Raymond
Laurence Naismith Laurence Naismith
Niall MacGinnis Niall MacGinnis

7.3 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Crispy
Added: June 10, 2013
Last month, Ray Harryhausen passed away. Now, I know that's not exactly a household name, but he just so happens to be one of the most influential people in the industry. He was a master of stop-motion animation, and blending his creations seamlessly with live actors. Had it not been for his contributions to the world of fantasy and sci-fi, the imaginations of names like George Lucas, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, and Peter Jackson never would have been sparked.

Spurred on by the prophecies of the fortune teller Phineas, Pelias and his armies storm the city of Thesaly and overthrow it, taking special care to kill the former king's children, to circumvent the second half of the prophecy that one of those children will return bearing one sandal and claim revenge. Obviously, we wouldn't have a movie if the infant Jason wasn't taken safely away from the siege. Years later, Pelias is out on a hunting party when his horse bucks him into a nearby river. Lucky for him, a stranger nearby hears the commotion and saves his life; a stranger that loses a sandal during the rescue. Seeing this, Pelias asks his name. Sure enough, this man is Jason, and he has vengeance on his mind. In a last ditch effort to save himself, Pelias tells Jason that he can only succeed if he claims the Golden Fleece on the other side of the world, a suicide mission to be sure. With the help of the queen of the gods, Hera, Jason puts together a crew of the finest bodied men available (named the Argonauts after their ship, the Argus, in turn named after its builder, Argus. Not the most imaginative train, but what can you do), including Hercules himself, and unbeknownst to Jason, Pelias' own son, Acastus. Along the quest, the crew face a plethora of monsters, including a giant bronze statue, harpies, a hydra and most iconically, an army of sword-wielding skeletons.

From a technical standpoint, there's nothing really that special about Jason and the Argonauts. It's not exactly a Homeric voyage; the plot moves along episodically, and the acting isn't anything to write home about. Sure, Gary Raymond played Acastus' sliminess nicely, but Todd Armstrong never quite convinced me that Jason was a confident leader inspiring his army to greatness, despite his best efforts. Likewise with Nigel Green's Hercules. Worst of all, the movie doesn't even show the full quest, ending with the Fleece. It's as if our filmmakers forgot about Pelias, Jason's main motivation, completely. Plus, one can't help but compare it to its spiritual successor, 1981's Clash of the Titans. Obviously, in no way is that a fair comparison, considering it was eighteen years later, but just try and keep from contrasting them in your head. This pales to that little gem in every possible way. With all that said, this isn't a bad movie. It is a fun little adventure, just not a very memorable one. And then, of course, you got those monsters.

Now, I almost don't even want to write this next paragraph. You see, this is where I rave about the effects and talk about how it saved the movie and it sounds like I'm waxing poetic because of the man's recent passing. Truth is, that didn't enter into things at all. I mean, let's be honest here, nobody popped this in for plot and characters. No, they wanted to see some monsters God damn it, and that's just what they get. Stop motion creatures is a lost art, and it depresses me to no end. Sure, CGI may be technically superior, and when done right, it can look amazing, but there's just something about the slight jerk that comes from bringing these monsters to life in this fashion that will always bring a smile to my face. And I was smiling plenty through Jason. I'll admit I would have preferred the skirmish with the harpies to be more of a fight, but when Jason took on the hydra and the army of skeletons, I was in heaven. I'm sure the new generation probably won't like it, but those of us who like things old-school will be cheering.

This movie will forever be caught in the shadow of its shinier, older brother, but that's more of a testament to Clash then any kind of knock on Jason. While it does have its fair bag of complaints, this is still an incredibly fun adventure movie, not to mention just as strong a feather in Harryhausen's cap. 8/10.
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Jack Desmond #1: Jack Desmond - added 06/11/2013, 12:22 PM
Sorry, 385, I just can't comprehend that you would rate Clash of the Titans (1981 version) over Jason. That one is dully directed, indifferently acted, lethargically placed and further hindered by misguided Star Wars rip-offs (mechanical own/bad R2D2 stand-in). Worst of all, quite frankly, Ray's special effects work in COT was hardly his best stuff. This is, especially the fight with the skeletons.
Crispy #2: Crispy - added 06/14/2013, 05:58 AM
I feel like that whole list of complaints is more accurately aimed at Jason. Clash feels like a single tightly-knit adventure, whereas Jason has such an episodic feel to it that it disjoints the whole voyage. And once again, it doesn't even include the entire end of his quest. The acting is also leaps and bounds better in Clash. I like the somewhat doubtful Harry Hamlin over the movie-hero-bravado that Todd Armstrong brought much more. Disregarding the heroes , let's look at the gods even. Clash's gods were more like the ones we read about in school, overly-proud and constantly squabbling with each other, instead of the happy-go-lucky bunch Jason dealt with. Towards this same end, Laurence Oliver's Zeus blew Niall MacGinnis out of the water. As for Harryhausen's stuff, I can easily see how that skeleton fight would top your list. That was a great fight, but in my personal opinion, the Medusa scene is nigh untoppable. Plus, on a more personal note, Clash of the Titans was a childhood staple of mine, whereas I saw Jason and the Argonauts in my 20s. That nostalgia is admittedly carrying my opinion a great deal. Now as for that owl....Yeah, I'll give you that one.
Jack Desmond #3: Jack Desmond - added 07/29/2013, 12:12 PM
I will give you that Harry Hamlin gave a stronger performance than Todd Armstrong, but that ain't setting the bar to high. I would also agree with you that Jason was less much more episodic than Clash of the Titans, but I don't see that necessarily as a negative when the "episodes" were so exciting and well staged. I just was just bored with Clash, though the Medusa sequence was pretty cool and tense. And Olivier, though from a historical point of view, was a superb actor, at this stage in his career he was pretty much phoning everything in for a paycheck IMO.
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