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Old 06-29-2009, 10:22 PM
"Kill! Kill! Kill them all!" Jason and the Argonauts ('63) review!

NOTE/WARNING: This is a Spoiler-Heavy Review.

Directed by Don Chaffey
Written by Jan Read and Beverly Cross

Based on the epic poem “The Argonautica“ by Apollonios Rhodios

While his name isn’t mentioned above, it must be said that Jason and the Argonauts is, above all, a Ray Harryhausen movie. In fact, it’s one of his finest and timeliest creations. The film is chocked full of conquest, adventure, character, and creatures. Some of the most memorable moments in the film include the multi-headed hydra, the iron titan Talos, and the classic Skeleton army. Together, you and I are going to delve through this film piece by epic piece and absorb everything that makes this movie a timeless classic.

The film opens with the loud and heroic score by Bernard Herrmann and ancient hieroglyphs while the credits scroll. Already, you can feel the awesomeness approaching, and then the film cuts to an old man. This old man is a fortune teller of sorts. He’s a future-reader for Zeus. He tells a man, Pelias, that he sees a tree with a golden fleece and that the kingdom of Thessaly will be overthrown, King Aristo will be killed, and that he, Pelias will wear his crown and his ass for a hat.

… I added the ass part.

There is a catch involved. Eventually, Pelias will lose his thrown. Because of his actions, one of the children of Aristo will come after him for revenge. Out of the three children, two are girls (Briseis and Philomela) and one a boy. Guess what the boys name is?!

Later that day, the battle for Thessaly has commenced. Briseis and Philomela retreat for haven at the foot of a statue of Hera, queen of the gods. Pelias enters the temple while Briseis is praying and Philomela is on an alter. Darth Sidious-- I mean, a priestess, comes out from the shadows and tells Pelias to let them live because they are under the protection of the gods. He responds with “then pray for my soul” and kills Briseis while she kneels. Hardcore.

Then the priestess reveals her face-- oh snap, it’s Hera! She tells him, “a one-sandaled man shall come” for him and that if he kills Jason, the son, he will kill himself.

In space, Hera returns to Zeus’ side. Hera makes it clear that she wants to both help Jason and bang him (in contrast, I’d totally love to bang Hera). Zeus tells her she’ll have five chances.

Flash forward twenty years later, and Zeus and Hera are still pimpin’ Mount Olympus and Pelias and Jason are much older. Hera, wanting to start shit, beams down to Pelias and scares him off his horse and into the water. Luckily, a one-sandaled man rescues Pelias before he drowns. Guess who this cut young stud is?

Wrong. It’s Jason, and he’s played by Todd Armstrong.

Anyway, Jason goes to Pelias’ gypsy camp where babes are exotic and dance all the time. There’s a tree at the end of the world with a golden fleece in its branches and Jason seeks it. That, and he also seeks to kill some dude named Pelias to avenge his fathers death. Jason apparently doesn’t ask for names when meeting people. He’s sitting right next to the man he wants to kill and doesn’t realize it.

Supposedly this fleece he seeks has the power to heal, bring peace, and end plague and famine. With the fleece, Jason could restore the kingdom his father once ruled. Pelias tells Jason he should find this fleece first before coming after him-- this is part of Pelias devious plot to get rid of Jason by sending him to the far side of the world. Acastas, Pelias’ son, will go with Jason in his quest to keep and eye on him and ruin his chances for success.

Later that day, Jason confronts the future-seeing man and finds out he’s actually Hermes. Hermes takes Jason to Mount Olympus by turning him into fire (how the hell does that work?). There, Jason is used as a chess piece for the gods. Zeus offers him a ship and a crew, but Jason asks for no help and decides to invent the Olympic games so that he can get the greatest warriors and athletes to be his crew.

The games that Jason hosts include fighting, rock throwing, arching, and swimming. Out of the blue, a rugid Hercules-- complete with a beard and hairy chest-- shows up. He’s allowed to become a part of the crew without trying out because, you know, he’s Zeus’ son and everything. However, a little warrior named Hylas challenged Hercules anyway. If Hylas can beat Zeus, he earns a spot on Jason’s ship. Hercules accepts a challenge and proposes a discus competition. Hercules throws his discus, which is clearly not held up by wires, and nails a rock in the middle of the ocean. Hylas then beats him by throwing his and skipping it along the water and going over the rock.

They need a ship, so Jason gets his buddy Argus to build the Argo. Strangely enough, the head of the ship is modeled to look like Hera. The wooden Hera comes alive and bats her lashes at Jason.

They sail. Soon, they’re out of water and their hands are blistered. Jason asks for help from Hera and she tells him to steer North and at noon he’ll reach land at the Isle of Bronze where Hephaestus made armor for Zeus. Jason then reports the news to his crew and tells them that when they arrive they are only allowed to take food and water. Hercules says if he finds a woman, he’ll nail her no matter what.

Goats are on the island. Hercules and Hylas chase after them in glee and they follow them to find statues of Talos and other gods. Underneath Talos’ statue is a tomb. They cautiously enter it to discover it is actually a treasure chamber. Hercules takes a golden spear among the treasure because he’s the fuckin’ son of Zeus and that’s how he rolls. Talos isn’t pleased with this though, and after Hercules exit’s the chamber, the statue turns its head to gaze down on him.

Talos gets up and begins chasing Jason and his Argonauts off the island. Talos blocks the way to go home and snatches their puny ship up and destroys it with his massive iron hand. Jason uses another request for help from Hera. She tells him that to defeat Talos, he’ll have to use his wit and to look at the ankles of the titan.

The Argonauts lure Talos and Jason “sneaks” up behind the 300 foot bastard and wrenches open a value on Talos’ ankle. There, steam and red hot lava poor out of the iron giant. Talos then slowly croaks, chokes, cracks, and collapses. Sadly enough, Hylas gets crushed trying to save Hercules’ spear while Talos falls.

After gathering food and water and rebuilding the Argo, Hercules stays behind because of the guilt he feels over Hylas (he also doesn’t know whether Hylas is alive or dead). Jason then uses up his final bit of aid from Hera. She tells Jason and the rest of the crew that Hylas is dead and that Zeus has other uses for Hercules. More importantly, she tells them to sail to Phrygia to seek out Phineas, a blinded old geezer, for he is the only one that can guide them now.

When we come across Phineas, we see him tortured by two demon-bat she-bitches. Thankfully, Jason and his Argonauts show up to aid the grumpy bastard. The two flying tormenters are called harpies, and they were sent by the gods to prey upon Phineas daily because he misused a prophecy Zeus gave him. Phineas says he’ll help if Jason can take those two bitches down.

Together with his Argonauts, they trap the two she-beasts under a net and lock them up in a cage. Phineas tells Jason that they must make their way to Colchis to get the fleece, but first pass between the Clashing Rocks.

The Clashing Rocks are literally just that. The Argo and another ship, passing from the opposite side, begin to trek in between the clashing rocks and both sides of the passage shake and crumble upon the waterway. The other ship is hit and crumbles and sinks. Thankfully, a merman is sent by the gods to aid Jason and the Argo pass. This merman is Triton, and he’s absolutely awesome. He stretches his massive arms across the waterway while the Argo passes unscathed. Then, after Jason reaches safety, he disappears back into the depths of which he came and whips his tail along the ocean.

Not all of the passengers of that other ship are dead though. One woman is on a plank floating in the water. Thankfully, her makeup didn’t get ruined and Jason and a few other horny and randy Argonauts jump in to “save” her.

This woman’s name is Medea and she was sailing from Colchis before the rocks came crashing down on them. She steers them to Colchis. On their way there, Acastus begins to show his colors. He picks a fight with Jason, questioning his orders and says they should steal the fleece at night. Jason and Acastus fight, but Acastus goes overboard and disappears.

In Calchis, Jason and his crew are greeted by saucy gypsies who, again, do nothing but dance all day. One of them is Medea. An Abraham Lincoln-ish Aeetes (king of Colchis) enters with his entourage into the Temple of Hecate where he tells Jason that he and his Argonauts are welcome in Colchis for their bravery and courage.

They celebrate that afternoon with a gypsy jamboree. However, Aeetes quickly turns into a buzz kill as he takes the treacherous word of Acastus (who somehow reached Colchis before Jason) and arrests Jason and his crew.

Medea tries to help the arrested heroes by praying for them in front of a three-headed dragon alter to Hecate, the Queen of Darkness (doesn’t sound like someone you’d go to for help). Medea goes to Jason’s prison quarters and asks Jason to leave peacefully and without the fleece, but Jason says he must have it. Medea decides she wants Jason and leads him to the fleece and, on the way, they release the rest of the Argonauts. Acastus already arrives to where the fleece is at, in the forest, while Medea is leading Jason and the Argonauts are stealing back their ship.

Once they get to the golden fleece, which is around the broken base of an ancient tree, Jason becomes faced with the seven-headed Hydra, which has already tightened its tail around Acastus and crushed him. Jason also gets captured by its tail but he hacks his way out and stabs the beast in the heart while it drops like a pile of snakes.

Jason and a few other Argonauts take the fleece, which looses it’s golden shine at human contact, and go on the run as Aeetes is close behind. While Jason ventures up a mountain, Aeetes has his henchman, James Woods, collect the Children of Hydras Teeth in a helmet.

When the showdown on the mountaintop begins, Medea is arrowed and nearly dies. Thankfully Jason throws the fleece on her, and through the power of gold and silk and money the woman survives.

Aeetes throws the teeth on the ground and Harryhausen’s favorite creation, of this film, comes to life from underneath the soil. The skeleton army rises.

Aeetes commands them and screams, “Kill! Kill! Kill them all!” The Skeletons begin to creep forward, and then suddenly lunge and screech-- yes, they fucking screech-- at the humans.

Jason ends up diving, from the mountain, in the ocean to safety back aboard the Argo, with Medea and his remaining Argonauts in hand. Hera is jealous of Medea as Jason machs on her and then-- the movie ends.

Yes, the movie ends without a decisive conclusion. That’s probably my only agitation with this otherwise perfect classic. The revenge tale never unfolds.

On the positive side, there’s far too much to appreciate. The movie has aged really well and looks like it was made at the same time of it’s sequel-ish, quasi-follow up Clash of the Titans. Actually, there’s 18 years between the two films.

Harryhausen’s special effects are fantastic. The movie moves at a quick pace even though there’s a lot going on. Seeing this makes me realize just how awesome some of the classic bigger budget movies used. Despite it being over twice my age, this movie entertained me far more than the recent Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen-- it’s shorter than that recent blockbuster but it also has something called a “plot” and quite a bit of heart and large doses of imagination.

One final note, the films take on Hercules and the man who played him (Nigel Green) were both awesome.

Runtime: 1 hr. 44 min. (104 minutes)

Related Recommendations:
Clash of the Titans, Conan the Barbarian, Jack the Giant Killer, Beowulf, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Krull, Willow

Last edited by FireCaptain4; 06-29-2009 at 11:21 PM..
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Old 06-29-2009, 11:14 PM

Uh... I liked the movie.

Fantastic review by the way. This film enchanted me so much when I first saw it and I remember it most vividly to this day... although I do own it on DVD, but still, that film was one of the shining lights of my early childhood that I could never forget.
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Old 06-30-2009, 12:13 AM
Thanks Tagia!

I feel very much the same way. I first saw Jason and the Argonauts on television, along with a lot of older Harryhausen classics like the Sinbad movies, It Came From Beneath the Sea, and Clash of the Titans. Thanks to that being a part of my younger life, the films kind of run together. Thus, I've been collecting them recently and seeing them again and it's like watching them for the first time.

What's your favorite Harryhausen film, btw?
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Old 06-30-2009, 01:48 AM
Originally Posted by FireCaptain4 View Post

What's your favorite Harryhausen film, btw?
I may actually have to say this very one. The reason why this is so is because when I was a wee thing, I used to be very prone to sickness (I've since grown myself an immune system thank Christ ) Anyhow, my mum brought this one home on VHS and put it into the player for me to watch in hopes to cheer me up. As I was watching it, it actually took my mind off my sickness and it got me curious about mythology. In response to this, my parents proceeded to show me those other Harryhausen films such as the awesome 'Sinbad' movies and of course 'Clash of the Titans', all of which acted as some sort of placebo. I know it sounds hard to believe, but you could say I owed my health to good ol' Ray.
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Old 07-11-2009, 04:29 AM
I have been a RH fan almost all my life. I have every movie of his on dvd excelt a couple im having probs getting...grrr. JATA is arguably Ray's best work. Greek mythology coupled with his Dynamation process plus a great cast and a really good story. Greek mythology almost always lends itself perfectly for story matter. You have all the elements right there. Thye just don't make 'em like they used to. Great review, Cappy.

10/10 for your review and 10/10 for the movie itself.

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