Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)


Dir: Don Chaffey (One Million Years B.C., The Viking Queen)
Cast: Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond, Niall MacGinnis, Laurence Naismith, Honor Blackman, Nigel Green, Douglas Wilmer
UK/USA, 1963

Seen: January 17, 2010 on VHS

Reason to Watch & Review: For the Sword & Sandal Marathon*

This is the first film of the marathon that is a first time viewing, which was quite a treat. I had a very general idea of what I might be in for so I settled in with my popcorn to be taken away to into the land of myth and who knows what else!

Although made roughly 20 years apart, Jason and the Argonauts (1963) has strong similarities to Clash of the Titans (1981), as we follow the heroic journey of a man whom is faced with a situation to fix through no wrong doing of his own. Jason and the Argonauts follows Jason who is working towards righting the wrong of his usurped kingdom, while being watched by the Gods. The film has a great cast of characters that come along for the adventure, but I really felt the heart of the story was the character of Jason. One of the most interesting characteristics about Jason is that he doesn't complain about the cards he's been dealt, nor expect any special treatment. He will certainly use the tools that are available, but does so with intelligence and grace. He uses innovation to deal with the tasks at hand and has the ability to draws people through keying into their personal motivation along with chance to be a part of something great. Both of these are powerful tool and great reminder that there is more than one solution to any one problem or scenario.

Aside from the characters, an epic journey always needs obstacles to overcome and when dealing with myths you can be sure the obstacles will be formidable. This is, of course, where the special effects come into play and even though I hadn't seen this film before several of the scenes with special effects where familiar, so I guess I've watched a few programs that showcased Ray Harryhausen's work. Although some of the blue screened effects don't fair too well over time, they still conveyed a sense of grand scale and vast challenges. I did however really enjoy the effects that were stop motion a great deal, and I'm sure if I had seen this film as a kid they would have scared me to bits!

The film is a great weekend afternoon type watch, and it's amazing that I found it can evoke a sense of nostalgia even though I hadn't seen it before. I really enjoyed the characters, their choices, the journey and the questions it brings to the surface. It's a great blend of fun adventure with lessons learned. A real treat.

So far the two veins of the Sword & Sandal films I've explored are Greek mythology and gladiator stories. It's interesting to note that both have the common trait of one group of characters watching another complete or compete in tasks where they stakes are stacked against them - but the viewers have little care for the players, only for the battle. This feels like it puts the view in a rather odd position - watching people watch these adventures for their own entertainment, when we ourselves are doing the same.

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
Ill watch it again
I'd recommend it as fun, nostalgic adventure film

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© Shannon Ridler, 2010

* The Sword & Sandal Marathon is a 13 week marathon exploring sword & sandal films in anticipation of the 2010 release of Clash of the Titans


Franco Macabro said...

ONe of Harryhausen's best films! That fight Jason and the skeletons was the primal inspiration for the stop motion animation skeleton army in Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness.

The scene with the giant metal statue, thats so classic!

You should review Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and The Eye of the Tiger...both of which are excellent sword and sandal flicks that feature Harryhausen animation.

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Wow, I had no idea that it served as inspiration for Army of Darkness - makes total sense, and it's a fantastic scene on of the ones that certainly holds up over the years.

The statue *freaked* me out! I'm glad I didn't see this one as a kid just for that reason alone.

I haven't had tons of luck finding the Sinbad films, but I really want to see them (I never have). I'll keep looking!

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