Jason and the Argonauts



Starring: Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack
Don Chaffey

Edition Details:
Region 2 encoding
(Europe, Middle East & Japan only), PAL, Widescreen, Dubbed

This 1963 movie illustrates clearly the problem with special effects movies - one day those effects will seem simply outdated and there will be nothing else of interest in such a movie to make up for it.

Am I being too harsh on what is usually classified as a classic by many? Probably not - the effects of Jason and the Argonauts, done by the legendary Ray Harryhausen, have dated terribly.

Unfortunately the movie depends so much on Harryhausen's effects that the rest - screenplay, acting, plot, etc. - are simply too lackluster to stand on its own. One suspects that many of today's special effects-driven blockbusters will probably suffer the same fate one day. Take my word for it: the effects in Battlestar Galactica seemed pretty impressive back then . . .

That Jason and the Argonauts is remembered today as a Harryhausen flick will support my thesis. Harryhausen simply did the stop-motion effects, a laborious process in which life-like models are manipulated and shot one frame at a time. Quick, who stars in it? Who directed it? Who wrote it? (Harryhausen also did the effects for flicks such as Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and Clash of the Titans.)

Not even some campy fun is to be had with Jason and the Argonauts - after all, we have some emotive dancing by slave girls, brawny men in skirts and sandals and so forth. Alas, it is simply too bland and lifeless for that. The famed skeleton fight scene supplies some fun, but comes way too late in the movie. To make things worse, the movie ends abruptly and feels unfinished.

The plot? A mishmash of Greek legends retold in true Hollywood fashion. Jason wants to avenge his father's death by obtaining the mythical Golden Fleece (the details escape me now - I often found my attention drifting during the movie). However, the gods (Zeus and that lot) often interferes and there are some seemingly invincible monsters to battle. Very similar to Clash of the Titans but fortunately not as deadly dull as that often fondly recalled (by people who probably haven't seen it recently) movie.

THE DISC: This is the Region 2 (UK & Europe) disc - judging from the special features, it seems almost identical to the Region 1 (States & Canada) DVD though. I say almost because the Region 1 disc doesn't have the hour-long Ray Harryhausen Chronicles documentary included. This documentary is directed narrated by Spock, I mean, Leonard Nimoy and is a great intro to neophytes unfamiliar with the work of Ray Harryhausen. In fact it is quite highly recommended and actually more fun than the movie itself.

Also, included is an interview of Harryhausen (who retired after Clash) by director John Landis (of American Werewolf in London fame).

The movie is presented in its proper widescreen ratio and doesn't look too bad for its age. The ocean settings look quite nice, actually.

WORTH IT? If you're a fan then it's recommended, but I'll wager that you haven't seen this movie for a while in such a case. It has aged terribly and is rather dull.

RECOMMENDATION: Like I said, the documentary included on this disc is quite fun and recommended if you want to find out just who exactly Harryhausen was and improve on your Trivial Pursuit score in the process.



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