Jason and the Argonauts
Jason and the Argonauts, originally titled “Jason and the Golden Fleece,” is a 1963 independent fantasy adventure film that was distributed by Columbia Pictures. This cinematic masterpiece was brought to life through the production efforts of Charles H. Schneer and directed by Don Chaffey. The film featured Todd Armstrong in the lead role of Jason, with a supporting cast including Nancy Kovack, Honor Blackman, and Gary Raymond.
Crafted using the vibrant Eastman Color, this cinematic gem achieved its legendary status thanks to the remarkable stop-motion animation visual effects created by the renowned artist Ray Harryhausen. Notably, the film is celebrated for its inclusion of various mythical creatures, with a memorable fight scene featuring seven skeletal warriors etching itself into cinematic history. Though the film initially faced box-office disappointment upon its release, it went on to garner critical acclaim and evolved into a beloved cult classic.
Ray Harryhausen (above) with some of his creations
Jason and the Argonauts: Musical Score
The film’s enchanting score was composed by Bernard Herrmann, who had previously collaborated with Ray Harryhausen on other notable films, including “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” (1958), “The 3 Worlds of Gulliver” (1960), and “Mysterious Island” (1961).
The plot begins with Pelias usurping the throne of Thessaly, resulting in the death of King Aristo. A prophecy foretells that one of Aristo’s offspring will avenge him. To protect him from Pelias, Aristo’s infant son, Jason, is secreted away by one of Aristo’s soldiers. Pelias commits a heinous act by slaying one of Aristo’s daughters, who had sought sanctuary in the temple of the goddess Hera. This desecration prompts Hera to become Jason’s guardian, and she cautions Pelias to beware of a “one-sandaled man.”
Twenty years later, a fateful encounter between Jason and Pelias sets the wheels of destiny in motion. Jason saves Pelias from drowning, an “accident” orchestrated by Hera, and in the process, he loses one of his sandals. Recognizing his foe, Pelias encourages Jason to embark on a quest to find the legendary Golden Fleece, secretly hoping Jason will meet his demise in the perilous journey.
Hermes, the messenger of the gods, transports Jason to Mount Olympus to seek counsel from Zeus and Hera. Zeus grants Hera the ability to assist Jason five times, mirroring the number of times Jason’s murdered sister had invoked her protection. Hera directs Jason to the land of Colchis to find the Golden Fleece. Although Zeus offers his aid, Jason declines and sets out to build a ship, the Argo, and recruit a crew, known as the Argonauts.
Their journey takes them through numerous trials and challenges, including encounters with legendary creatures like Talos and the Hydra. With Hera’s guidance, they navigate treacherous waters and eventually reach Colchis, where they face the devious intentions of King Aeëtes. It is there that Jason meets Medea, who falls in love with him and aids him in his quest.
The climax of their adventure sees Jason battling the Hydra, obtaining the Golden Fleece, and facing the terrifying emergence of armed skeletons, the “children of the Hydra’s teeth.” After a fierce battle and the loss of many companions, Jason escapes and, along with Medea and the surviving Argonauts, begins their voyage back to Thessaly. Meanwhile, Zeus and Hera discuss their continued involvement in Jason’s destiny.
Jason and the Argonauts 1963 Cast:
- Todd Armstrong as Jason (dubbed by Tim Turner)
- Nancy Kovack as Medea (dubbed by Eva Haddon)
- Gary Raymond as Acastus
- Laurence Naismith as Argus
- Niall MacGinnis as Zeus
- Michael Gwynn as Hermes/priest
- Douglas Wilmer as Pelias
- Jack Gwillim as King Aeëtes
- Honor Blackman as Hera
- John Cairney as Hylas
- Patrick Troughton as Phineus
- Andrew Faulds as Phalerus
- Nigel Green as Hercules
- John Crawford as Polydeuces
- Ferdinando Poggi as Castor
- Bill Gudgeon as Triton
- Doug Robinson as Eupaemus
- Davina Taylor as Briseis
- Aldo Cristiani as Lynceus
“Jason and the Argonauts” remains a timeless classic in the realm of fantasy adventure films, cherished by audiences for its captivating storytelling and groundbreaking visual effects.
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