Directed By: Don Chaffey
Starring: Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond
Tag line: "Greatest Odyssey Of The Ages - for the first time on the screen"
Trivia: In April 2004, Empire magazine ranked Talos as the second best film monster of all time, after King Kong
Ray Harryhausen, that master of stop-motion animation, is a man of unlimited patience. Take, for instance, the most famous scene in 1963s Jason and the Argonauts, where a small army of skeletons attacks Jason and his crew as they attempt to escape with the Golden Fleece. This sequence, which lasts less than five minutes, took Harryhausen four and a half months to complete, an average of roughly 2-3 seconds worth of animation per day. This is the level of dedication that Harryhausen brought to his work on a regular basis, and his commitment to his craft is on display throughout Jason and the Argonauts.
The kingdom of Thessaly has been conquered by the evil Pelias (Douglas Wilmer), and, according to a prophecy handed down by the Gods, the only mortal capable of removing him from power is Jason (Todd Armstrong), the heir to Thessaly’s throne. To strengthen his position and win favor with the Gods, Jason plans an expedition to locate the Golden Fleece, a magical item that's hidden at the end of the world. To undertake this task, he orders the finest ship be built, which he names the Argo, then assembles a mighty crew to sail her, including heroes like Polydeuces (John Crawford) and Hercules (Nigel Green). Assisted by the Goddess Hera (Honor Blackman), Jason travels the high seas, battling ferocious creatures in an attempt to prove himself worthy of what is rightfully his.
Jason and the Argonauts is a tremendous fantasy film, opening with King Pelias’ conquest of Thessaly, a thrilling, well-staged battle that sets the tone for the entire movie. Also, to add some authenticity to the tale, many key scenes were shot among actual ruins including those in Paestum and Palinnuro, Italy (the attack of the harpies against the blind soothsayer, Phinneas, who’s played by Patrick Troughton, makes especially good use of these ancient locales). Take all this, then throw Ray Harryhausen’s animation in on top of it, and you’re left with one hell of a film. Along with the skeleton army and the marauding harpies, Harryhausen introduces a few other classic characters in Jason and the Argonauts, like Talos, the huge metallic statue that attacks Jason on the isle of Bronze. Even with its grand spectacle and impressive sets, Jason and the Argonauts is proof positive that Ray Harryhausen takes a back seat to no one!
Of the dozen or so movies to feature Harryhausen’s life-like creations, Jason and the Argonauts is considered by some the best of the bunch. It’s an opinion Harryhausen himself shares, saying the work he did on this film, above all others, “pleased” him. Jason and the Argonauts is a thrilling adventure, a movie bursting at the seams with imagination, and I, for one, loved it