Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

jason and the argonauts poster 1963 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 10/10

Classic stop-motion animation by Ray Harryhausen

Story is very open ended and feels incomplete

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Jason and the Argonauts

Studio:  Morningside Productions

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Family

Release Date(s):  June 19, 1963

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

jason and the argonauts talos statue

Good job, Herc

Jason (Todd Armstrong) is on a quest that could challenge the gods.  As a child, his family was murdered by Pelias (Douglas Wilmer) who took the throne from Jason’s father, but a prophecy that Jason could be the death of Pelias has Pelias sending Jason on a quest of epic proportions in the hopes he will fail.  Turning his back on the aid of Zeus (Niall MacGinnis), Jason assembles his own team of sailors to travel to the ends of the earth to discover a legendary golden fleece.  Jason and his crew upon the Argos must locate the land housing the Golden Fleece and will face a giant, harpies, clashing rocks, skeletons, and a serpent to find it…and Jason’s vow to do it without the gods might not be possible.

Directed by Don Chaffey, Jason and the Argonauts is a Greek mythology action-adventure fantasy film.  The movie features special effects by Ray Harryhausen and was a critical and box office success.  Harryhausen later said Jason and the Argonauts was his best work.

jason and the argonauts harpies ray harryhausen

I want the harpies to fight Medusa

I love Ray Harryhausen movies.  As a kid, mythology was my thing and Clash of the Titans (though a cheesy film) was something that helped turn me on to it.  Jason and the Argonauts has the same charm almost twenty years before Clash of the Titans, but the movie does have some faults.

The movie dips into myth and borrows what it wishes from the myths of Jason and the Argonauts.  The myths were often episodic and that does make for problems when trying to make a feature length film.  Still, the movie manages to make a compelling story that kids and adults will like…and then it just ends.  The start of the story follows the idea that Jason will eventually kill Pelias (who killed his family), and Pelias sends him on the quest as a distraction.  You expect Jason to return and avenge his family, but the movie just finishes with Jason getting the Golden Fleece and sailing on…it feels like there was a sequel meant to finish the story, but it never occurred.

jason and the argonauts hydra ray harryhausen

You wouldn’t just give me the Golden Fleece…would you?

The cast is so-so.  Todd Armstrong is the typical 1950-1960s heartthrob type guy, but his voice is dubbed for the movie.  He’s joined by the “manly” crew of the Argos which includes English actor Laurence Naismith as the builder of the Argos (whose poor ship has the crap beaten out of it).  Nigel Green plays Hercules but his mythic relationship with John Cairney who plays Hylas is glossed over by the film (they’re just good friends).  Doctor Who’s Second Doctor Patrick Troughten plays the blinded Phineas and Bond girl Honor Blackman plays Hera with her husband Zeus portrayed by Niall MacGinnis.  Nancy Kovacks who plays Jason’s romantic interest shows up really late in the movie (which also feels forced).

jason and the argonauts skeletons ray harryhausen

The Army of Darkness is rising!!!

The story and the acting isn’t why you watch this movie however…you watch it for the great Harryhausen effects.  The movie is loaded with monsters like his other films and it is interesting to see where Harryhausen improved and remained the same over the years.  You have the metal giant Talos (who they don’t do a very good job keeping in proportion), the awesome harpies, the god Triton, and the deadly hydra.  Many see the crowning achievement to be Jason’s ending battle with the skeletons…I know that compared to current effects it is poor, but I love the charm of the stop-motion animation which was way ahead of its time.

Jason and the Argonauts is a fun (though unbalanced) movie.  The open ended nature of the story does hurt the film, but just come for the classic effects.  Fans of mythology will enjoy the adventure, and it could introduce kids to classic stories and encourage more reading.  Jason and the Argonauts is definitely worth revisiting or seeking out if you’ve never seen it.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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