Here’s a great film from 1963 – directed by Don Chaffey in collaboration with stop motion animation expert Ray Harryhausen Jason And The Argonauts is an adventure, fantasy film based on the story of Jason & the Golden Fleece from Greek mythology. Well, they call it fantasy, let’s call it mythology. Let’s have a look at the movie which Tom Hanks calls the best film of all time.
The throne of Thesally is usurped by Pelias, under the protection of the god Zeus, by storming the palace of King Aristo and killing him; but learns a prophecy that he will be overthrown by a child of Aristo wearing one sandal. When Pelias kills one of Aristo’s daughters it angers Zeus wife the goddess Hera as it was done in her temple. Before Briseis is killed, she places the infant son of Aristo into the arms of the statue of Hera. Hera, disguised as a priestess, informs Pelias that it is the infant son of Aristo who will bring the end of him but if Pelias harms the boy, he too will die. Zeus and Hera discuss strategy like the moves on a big chess board and 20 years pass (which is but an instant on Olympus). A fully grown Jason, Aristo’s son, saves Pelias from drowning not knowing who he is. Pelias, however, recognizes who he is from the fact that Jason has only one sandal having lost the other in the water. Jason reveals his plans to go steal the golden fleece which is encouraged by Pelias as it keeps his enemy away from him. However, later the god Hermes appears before Jason and takes him to Olympus. Zeus offers his direct aid to Jason, but Jason declares that he can organize the voyage, build the ship, and select a crew of the bravest and most able men in all of Greece by holding an Olympics. Zeus, observing that those most worthy of the aid of the gods are those who least call upon it, agrees and sends Jason back to Earth to make preparations for the adventure.
Hera however is taken by Jason and chooses to help him when called upon but can only do it 5 times as restricted by Zeus. On learning of Jason’s mission, men from all over Greece compete to be selected to join him. Among those chosen are Hercules and Hylas. Acastus, the son of Pelias, is sent by his father to sabotage the voyage. Jason selects a new ship the Argo by builder Argus, who also joins the mission and finds that the mast is of the likeness of Hera. The men are dubbed the Argonauts. As they run out of supplies after days on the water, Hera is called by Jason and she guides him to the Isle of Bronze where she warns him that they are to take only foods and water and nothing else. Hercules takes a giant brooch pin the size of a javelin which awakens a huge statue of Talos that then begins to attack the men. Jason again turns to Hera, who guides him to open a cylindrical plug on the back of Talos’s heel, releasing the latter’s vital lifeforce. As the bronze giant falls it crushes Hylas to death, unseen by the others. Hercules, blaming himself, refuses to leave the island until he finds Hylas dead or alive and the rest of the men refuse to leave the strongest man behind. Jason calls Hera again, who reminds Jason this is the last time she can help him and confirms that Hylas is dead and that Hercules is not to continue with the others, and directs them to seek the blind soothsayer Phineas. The old man is tormented by two Harpies sent by Zeus as a punishment for misusing his gift of prophecy; each time Phineas sits for a meal the winged female creatures steals it, leaving him only scraps.
Jason & the Argonauts capture and trap the Harpies and in return Phineas gives Jason an amulet and directions to Colchis. To reach Colchis, they must sail between the Clashing Rocks which come together and crush any ship attempting to pass them. As the Argo gets trapped and is about to be crushed, Jason calls upon the gods and thrown the amulet into the sea as an offering; Triton appears from under the waters and holds the rocks back allowing the ship to pass safely. They pick up three survivors of another ship, among them Medea. As the reach Colchis Jason & Acastus disagree on strategy and fight and when the latter is disarmed he jumps into the sea believed to have drowned. Jason and his men accept an invitation from King Aeëtes to a feast, where they are captured and imprisoned. Medea, who is a priestess in Colchis and is enamoured by Jason, helps him and his men escape. She takes Jason to the golden fleece which lies on a tree but as he approaches it, Jason is attacked by its guardian Hydra. Jason is able to kill Hydra but the many-headed snake monster kills Acastus, who tries to steal the fleece for himself. Aeëtes, in pursuit, sows the Hydra’s teeth after praying to the goddess Hecate, producing a skeletal warrior from each. When Medea is wounded by an arrow in the resulting battle, Jason uses the fleece to heal her. He orders Argus to take Medea to the ship, while he and two of his men fight off the skeletons. When his two companions are killed, Jason jumps off a cliff into the sea, “drowning” the skeletons, and escapes to the ship; whereafter he, Medea, and the surviving Argonauts begin their return to Thessaly. In Olympus Hera is victorious as her champions has won but Zeus who is pleased by Jason says he will call upon him again.
The film ends on a high note without completing the journey (I don’t know why they ended things here) and the end of the mission. However it is a great film and a lot of fun to watch. The stop animation is good for the era. Any film buff, especially those of you who love to watch ancient stuff like Greek & Roman mythology should watch it if you already haven’t. Two points of note: Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore in Goldfinger) and Nancy Kovack (Nona in a season 2 episode of Star Trek TOS) play Hera and Medea respectively. 8.5 outta 10!