Movie review: “Jason and the Argonauts”


Funny how a movie can make an impression on you.  I remember watching this movie when I was seven or eight years old, on television in our living room.  All the lights were on, for some reason, which means it had to be an occasion – a holiday, or something. 



But, of that evening, I only remember this movie.



If you’ve seen “Jason and the Argonauts,” you know what I mean.  As sword-and-sandals epics go, this is Shakespeare.  The cast is very non-Hollywood (although many of them were notable stage performers and had made their share of British movies), but they’re wonderfully cast: Todd Armstrong as an intense dark-eyed Jason, Honor Blackman as the dignified mother-goddess Hera, Laurence Naismith as the spry ol’ boatwright Argus (who, as an older man, has no problem taking his shirt, or peplum, or whatever, off), Nigel Green as a brashly funny hairy-chested cheerful non-musclebound Hercules (who nonetheless gives you the distinct impression that you’d better respect him), John Cairney as the insinuatingly clever (and very cute) Hylas, Nancy Kovack as the darkly beautiful Medea. 



Do I need to speak of the Ray Harryhausen effects?  They are the heart and soul of the movie.  The huge statue of Talos that comes to life on the Island of Bronze, terrorizing the Argonauts.  The Harpies swooping and diving at poor Phineas.  The horrible army of skeletons that grow out of the ground in Colchis.  The gigantic figure of Poseidon rising out of the water (crown and all) to hold back the Clashing Rocks, his fishtail slapping in the water, allowing the Argo to pass through.



Now, watching it as an adult, I notice all kinds of other things.  I notice its fidelity to the original myth.  I giggle a little over the exotic-dance numbers, which were a standard part of any 1950s / 1960s mythology flick; these, in “Jason,” actually aren’t bad.  I listen with interest to the Bernard Herrmann score, conducted by the composer and played by the Royal Philharmonic, which is full of late-Romantic barbarism and glory.  (The Phineas/Harpies scene uses xylophone glissandos!  I certainly never noticed that as a kid.)



(Partner told me that he skipped school to go into Boston and see it back in 1963.)



(Time well spent, if you ask me.)



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

2 Responses to Movie review: “Jason and the Argonauts”

  1. kleeyaro says:

    Special effects and computer generated effects today are great. No denying that. But the mastery and talent of Ray Harryhausen is second to none. Like any stop motion animation, it’s painstaking, tedious…I don’t think I’d have the patience for it. But The Great Ray, he was just, well, awesome!

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