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Film / Jason and the Argonauts

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Jason and the Argonauts is a 1963 Sword and Sandal fantasy film directed by Don Chaffey. It is loosely based off a Greek myth, the most famous source for the myth being the Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes (2nd century BC). The film is most famous for its Stop Motion sequences created by Ray Harryhausen (who also produced the film). Bernard Herrmann composed the soundtrack.

The story revolves around the hero Jason (Todd Armstrong), rightful heir to the throne of Thessaly, whose throne was usurped from his father by Evil Uncle Pelias (Douglas Wilmer). Pelias offers to give Jason the throne if he sails to the end of the world to claim the Golden Fleece, something which many have tried but failed. Jason gathers a Badass Crew, including Hercules and other Greek heroes, and sets sail aboard the ship Argo. Together, the Argonauts encounter all sorts of adventures along the way. Jason's love interest is Medea (Nancy Kovack), a temple dancer, and the gods Zeus (Niall MacGinnis) and Hera (Honor Blackman) play roles in the story as well.

The myth has also been adapted into a 2000 television miniseries of the same name.

The film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Context Change: In the myths Talos was created to guard Crete and went rogue, hurling boulders at passing ships. He was the last obstacle the Argonauts faced and was tricked by Medea. Here he's the first major obstacle the heroes face.
  • Adaptation Species Change: The fleece's guardian was a dragon in the original myth. It is a hydra in the film.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Jason's father is renamed from Aeson to Aristo.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Acastus betrays the Argonauts to Aeetes. He didn't betray them in the original myth and ended up becoming King in his father's place. He did end up banishing Medea from the kingdom, but then again she did cause his father's death.
  • Adapted Out:
    • All of the other named members of the Argonauts like Theseus,Pollux, Castor, Orpheus, Peleus, Laertes, Telamon, and Deucalion are absent unless they're meant to be some of the unnamed crew members.
    • Jason's tutelage under the centaur Chiron.
    • Medea's brother Apsyrtus and his murder.
    • Their return journey to Thessaly is omitted.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Zeus stops Hera from "clearing the board" because he's not done with Jason yet.
  • Animate Dead (In both senses of the word!): Aeetes summons the skeletons of warriors killed by the Hydra to stop the Argonauts.
  • Attack Its Weakpoint: The Talos fight. An example of Shown Their Work since this is how Talos was defeated in the myth.
  • Blessed with Suck: Phineas is given the gift of making prophecies but has lost his eyesight.
  • But Now I Must Go: Hercules leaves the Argo on the Isle of Bronze, after causing Hylas' death. Hera explains Zeus has other plans for Hercules at the moment.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Jason receives an Amulet of Dependency, which is not from the myth. It is a gift used to call for Triton's aid in escaping the Clashing Rocks.
  • Climbing the Cliffs of Insanity: Climbing down cliffs.
  • Cosmic Chess Game: Zeus and Hera influence and observe Jason's journey using a chesslike board with pieces resembling Jason and the people and creatures he encounters.
  • Costume Porn: For the royal characters, anyway.
  • Creator In-Joke: The skeletons' shields depict creatures from Harryhausen's previous movies.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • In the original myth, Hylas was kidnapped by a nymph who fell in love with him. Here, he's crushed by the falling Talos.
    • The fleece's guardian was merely put to sleep by Medea in the myth, but Jason kills it here. It was also a dragon, not the Hydra.
    • Acastus is killed after betraying the group. In the myths he ruled for many years.
    • Pelias kills Jason's father. In the myth, he overthrew and imprisoned him, but did not kill him. They were also half-brothers in the myth.
  • A Death in the Limelight: Euphemus looks like he's going to get an Awesome Moment - only to drown trying to catch Acastus.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Between Hercules and Hylas in the competition to be an Argonaut. Hylas is able to cast a discus farther by skipping it over the water, to Hercules' great amusement, and they become best buds. When Hylas dies later as a result of Hercules' actions, he is heartbroken enough to leave the quest then and there.
  • Dem Bones: The skeleton fight scene. The skeletons are Perpetual Motion Monsters and Jason actually can't defeat them by fighting—they keep getting up and all they need is one slip in the heroes' guard to kill. So Jason jumps off the cliff instead. They all stupidly chase Jason over the cliff and he survives the plunge, but they just sink to the bottom.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the Harryhausen film only Hercules, Hylas, Argus and Acastus receive any development whatsoever and other Argonauts are only mentioned by name.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Poor Phineas. He's condemned to have harpies attack and steal his food for the rest of his life. It's left him quite bitter at the gods.
    "Zeus, I was a sinner! But I didn't sin every day..."
  • Divine Assistance: Hera is allowed to help Jason five times during his adventures. Jason also uses an amulet he receives from Phineas to get help from the god Triton (Poseidon's son).
  • Double Meaning: Jason tells a camp's general that he is visiting Thessaly to reclaim his rightful throne from Pelias, who had usurped it twenty years before. The general tells Jason, "When your father defended his throne, no man fought harder than I." The general is secretly Pelias himself, so the second meaning is, in a sense, "truer" than the seemingly straightforward one (he fought hard enough to win, after all).
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Jason manages to get the fleece and get the woman, but only after hardship, betrayal and the deaths of a fair few of his comrades-in-arms.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Aeetes, the Sorcerous Overlord of Colchis devours the scenery.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Clashing Rocks. When Jason asks what they are, Phineas says "they speak for themselves, don't they?"
  • Expressive Mask: The animated skeletons have angry "eyebrows".
  • Face–Heel Turn: Acastus betrays the Argonauts to King Aeetes and helps lure them into being imprisoned. Then again the "Face" part is debatable as he was kind of The Mole for Pelias.
  • Fan Disservice: It's a film with a lot of shirtless, sweaty men. Including an old man and a very hairy Hercules. Gah.
  • Final Battle: Jason and three Red Shirt Argonauts versus a horde of reanimated skeletons. And it's epic.
  • Forbidden Fruit:
    • Hera warns the Argonauts not to take anything but supplies from the Isle of Bronze. Then Hercules and Hylas find a gods' jewelry box, with a brooch pin that Hercules fancies as a javelin. This awakens Talos, who was guarding the tomb and tries to kill the Argonauts.
    • A literal example is the banquet on Phineus's island. Every day it's loaded with delicious food. Attempting to eat any of it summons the harpies.
  • Futureshadowing: The finale of the movie has Zeus and Hera look in their pool in Olympos where they scry Jason and Medea kissing each other. Hera casts a sad look at them, and Zeus then comes in and admits that it might be for the best to let them have their moment since they will have future adventures (which Zeus says in an ominous manner). Much of this foreshadows the ultimately tragic fate of the two characters:
    Zeus: "For the moment let them enjoy a calm sea, a fresh breeze and each other. The girl is pretty, and I was always sentimental. But for Jason there are other adventures. I have not yet finished with Jason. Let us continue the game another day."
  • Giant Flyer: The harpies.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: In this version, Zeus decrees that Hera is only allowed to help Jason five times, since Hera bluffs that this was the number of times his elder sister Briseis called upon her by name to protect him. This is a handy explanation for why Hera, as Queen of the Gods, can't just come in and magically solve every problem for our heroes, which works fine in a myth but would be pretty anti-climactic in a film. (Of course, she still finds ways around it...)
  • Gratuitous Princess: Inverted. Medea is a princess in the original myth but here is just a priestess to Hecate.
  • Harping on About Harpies: The harpies steal from Phineus's table and the Argonauts have to defeat them. They are ferocious, killing two Argonauts. They are caught in a net by the Argonauts and locked in a cage while Phineus now eats the food in front of them.
  • Hero of Another Story: Hercules. Spelled out by Hera when he leaves the quest to look for Hylas.
  • The High Queen: Hera is this for the Gods. While she's sometimes this in the myths too, this is one of the rare stories where she's portrayed as this - rather than the other kind of queen.
  • Hydra Problem: Averted. Despite having a Hydra, it remains with only 7 heads as Jason never tries to decapitate any of them in the first place.
  • Island of Mystery: The Isle of Bronze has ancient Greek architecture full of treasure and a giant bronze statue that comes to life.
  • Isle of Giant Horrors: The Isle of Bronze is inhabited by giant bronze statues that would come to life if anyone trespasses in the tombs they were guarding. Hercules inadvertently ends up awakening the Living Statue of Talos when he steals from the crypt he was guarding, who nearly kills the Argonauts. Though the Argonauts manage to defeat Talos, Hercules' best friend Hylas was killed during the battle.
  • It's All My Fault: Hercules blames himself when Hylas disappears on the Isle of Bronze and leaves the quest to find him, or rather, to find his body because he was crushed by Talos.
  • Jerkass Gods: Surprisingly averted - likely due to the original myth featuring one of Hera's positive portrayals. The Gods seem friendly enough and Hera especially tries to stop Pelias from murdering a girl in her temple. She's quite willing to help Jason, though Zeus restricts the amount of times she may do so.
  • Large Ham:
    • King Aeëtes romps home with the prize. "DESTROY THEM! KILL! KILL, KILL, KILL THEM ALL!!!"
    • Acastus.
  • Left Hanging: The movie ends with the heroes escaping from the skeletons but we never see a resolution between Jason and Pelias. Rather than continuing Jason's story, Harryhausen did Sinbad sequels instead. (Possibly because Jason and Medea have the most Downer Ending possible.)
  • Lightning Bruiser: Hercules is suggested to be this as well as The Ace. Jason doesn't even bother auditioning him the way he does everyone else, because he knows there is nothing Hercules couldn't do better than anyone else.
    Hercules: Which champion do you want me to beat?
    Jason: No-one! I know you can beat us all, your place is reserved!
  • Living Figurehead: The Argo's figurehead (which the shipwright, on a whim, put on the ship's stern) depicts Hera and the goddess herself speaks through it several times to give Jason guidance. When she does, the figurehead's eyelids move.
  • Living Statue: Talos.
  • Mercury's Wings: Hermes himself appears, wearing a bronze helmet with small wings.
  • Metaphorically True: When Jason meets Pelias (not knowing who it is), he says he'll need the help of this fine army commander to take back his throne. The reply he gets is "When your father defended his throne from Pelias, no man fought harder than I." Which is true.
  • Mighty Glacier: Talos is invincibly big, strong, and tough, but doesn't move very fast. It doesn't make him any less dangerous. He's, well, a giant bronze statue and the Argonauts don't have anything that can really hurt him.
  • The Mole: Acastus, sent by Pelias to kill Jason when he looks like getting the Golden Fleece. Jason twigs to his purpose just before they reach Colchis, but Acastus escapes and warns Aeetes about the visitors. And then tries to steal the Fleece for himself, which gets him killed by the Hydra.
  • Nay-Theist: Jason doesn't believe in the gods, so Hermes brings him to Mount Olympus. Jason still refuses Zeus's help (but accepts Hera's, since she's already started), though Zeus is pleased by this. He's not so pleased later when Jason declares "screw the gods!" at the Clashing Rocks.
  • Never My Fault: Pelias tries to blame Zeus for the slaying of Briseis in Hera's temple, as it was Zeus who decreed that Pelias would take Thessaly's throne but be killed by the king's children. Hera says that he did it all his own self.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Hercules causes the statue of Talos to awaken when he steals a javelin-sized brooch pin from a divine treasure trove. Talos proceeds to pursue the Argonauts relentlessly, destroys the Argo and while Jason is able to "kill" the statue by removing a plug from his ankle, Hercules drops the brooch-pin and Hylas goes back to get it and is crushed under Talos as he crumbles and crashes down onto the beach. Hercules blames himself for all the misfortune and the death of Hylas and leaves the Argonauts to wander the Isle of Bronze in search of Hylas.
  • No Ending: Jason has defeated the skeletons and the Argo is about to sail away from Colchis with the Golden Fleece, but even assuming they're not attacked by Thessalian warships they still have to find a way back through the Clashing Rocks, navigate all the way back to Thessaly and defeat King Pelias. Zeus says "For Jason there will be other adventures", but they were never filmed. which given how Jason and Medea's story ends in the Medea stage play, it was probably the right call.
  • No, Mister Bond, I Expect You To Dine: King Aeetes treats Jason and his followers to a lavish banquet despite knowing full well that he intends to steal the Golden Fleece, likely so as to lull them into a false sense of security and make them easier to imprison.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Hercules realizes he has awaken Talos.
  • Our Hydras Are Different: The Hydra appears as the guardian of the Golden Fleece and is killed when Jason stabs it in the heart, bypassing its traditional ability to regrow severed heads, and its teeth are later used to animate skeletal warriors. It's effectively a Composite Character of the actual Hydra, the Colchian dragon (which guarded the Golden Fleece in the original myth) and Cadmus' dragon (whose teeth grew into fierce soldiers when sown).
  • Primal Stance: The skeletons stand at attention when they first emerge, but when Aeetes exerts them to "KILL THEM ALL!", they all hunch over. In unison.
  • The Queen's Latin: More like The Queen's Ancient Greek, but the gods speak rather posh.
  • The Quest: Get the Golden Fleece and overthrow Pelias.
  • Red Shirt Army: Jason apparently picked the best athletes in Greece, yet hardly any of them actually do anything interesting apart from the two who get killed by the skeletons at the end. Oh, and Euphemus, the guy who jumped in after Acastus and drowned trying to catch him.
  • Rightful King Returns: This is what Jason would like to do, but he wants to have something more inspiring for his people than just stomping up to the palace and killing Pelias. Hence, the quest.
  • Rule of Cool: The fight between the hero and a skeleton went down so well in Harryhausen's previous Sinbad movie that Harryhausen decided to make the hero fight seven skeletons.
  • Same Language Dub: The two lead actors, Todd Armstrong (Jason) and Nancy Kovack (Medea), both American actors, were dubbed by British actors, Tim Turner and Eva Haddon respectively.
  • Sandal Punk: A Greece where fantasy monsters and automatons are real.
  • Scenery Porn
  • Sequel Hook: The film ends with the Argonauts having successfully acquired the Golden Fleece, but doesn't show Jason's return to overthrow Pelias. The sequel didn't happen most likely because what follows is in no way akin to an adventure story but falls into pure tragedy, as shown in the play Medea and its adaptations.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Jason gets fed up with the gods shortly after helping Phineas escape his divinely-decreed punishment and calls for the end of the gods when it looks like the Argo will be destroyed in the Clashing Rocks. This impresses Hera and she moves Triton to intercede.
  • Stock Footage: Pelias conquering Aristo's kingdom at the start reuses footage from Helen of Troy.
  • Stylistic Suck: Harryhausen deliberately animated Talos to move stiff and jerky as opposed to his smoother puppetry, in order to capture how a giant metal creature would really move.
  • Take a Third Option: Jason's solution to the skeletons. He can't kill them, and certainly doesn't want them to kill him, so he jumps off a cliff into the sea. They mindlessly follow and sink straight to the bottom.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Acastus as the king's son.
  • Treacherous Quest Giver: Pelias sends Jason on the quest to find the Golden Fleece in order to forestall the prophecy that Jason will kill him, and in the hope that Jason will never return.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Pelias sends Jason to die even though the young man saves him from drowning.
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation: Medea was Aeetes's daughter in the myth, but is just a priestess to Hecate here.
    • Pelias was Jason's uncle in the myth, but the film never indicates that they are related.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Apart from Zeus saying that Hera is allowed to help Jason's baby sister Philomena, no mention is made of her after she's left on Hera's statue. What's more is that Jason never asks about his sister or even meets her in Iolcus.


Video Example(s):



Due to Hercules disobeying the command of the gods, he ends up awakening Talos the bronze man, who begins persuing the Argonauts.

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