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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - August, 2010

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"Jason and the Argonauts" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

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Synopsis

Fantastic special effects by Ray Harryhausen and an exciting mythological adventure make this a film that is fun for everyone. It's the story of Jason (Todd Armstrong), a fearless sailor and explorer, who returns to the kingdom of Thessaly after a 20-year voyage to make his rightful claim to the throne. But to do so, Jason must first find the magical Golden Fleece. He selects a crew (with Hercules, no less) and with the help of Hera, Queen of the Gods, sets sail in search of the Fleece which can be found at the "end of the world". Jason and his crew must overcome incredible obstacles including Talos, a 100-foot bronze giant, the venomous seven- headed Hydra, and a spectacular battle with an army of skeletons. Soundtrack is by the late, great Bernard Hermann.

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • 1963, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 44 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  AVC@ 28 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond, Laurence Naismith, Niall MacGinnis
  • Produced by Charles H. Schneer, Ray Harryhausen
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Schneer made several fantasy adventures with Harryhausen and this is perhaps their finest effort. The acting is a bit wooden, but the story holds up well and the pace moves right along. The movie is wonderfully restored, and the special effects will not defy belief but will allow you to suspend it. This is a great movie for you and the kids to view. Along the way they encounter a variety of mythical creatures, including the 100-foot bronze god Talos (rated by many movie goers as second only to King Kong in the ‘giant monster’ category), the bat-like Harpies, the seven-headed reptilian Hydra, and an army of skeletons wielding sword and shield. This last scene remains one of the finest that Harryhausen ever created, and it's still as exciting as CGI special effects from today. Harryhausen is the true "stop motion king of fantasy films", and his brilliant animation evokes a timeless sense of wonder. As a kid, this movie did not really scare me, but it did leave me with a sense of marvel and amazement. It is still enjoyable to this day.

Technical

Picture quality is generally very sharp and detailed. A few of the long shots appear soft and unfocused. Colors are rich and natural with good contrast. The special effect scenes can be a bit soft, but still hold up well for being over 50 years old. Very few scenes show spots or blemishes and I concede that this is the best I have ever seen this film look. Soundtrack gives clear dialog and robust music with clever scoring by Hermann (like the xylophones in the skeleton fight sequence). Surrounds come into play a few times as does the sub, but don’t expect too much else. Still, this is a big improvement over the original mono sound.

Extras

Audio commentary with Peter Jackson and Visual Effects Artist Randall William Cook, Interview with Harryhausen and John Landis, Audio commentary with Ray Harryhausen with film historian Tony Dalton, The Harryhausen Legacy, Ray Harryhausen Chronicles, Original Skeleton Fight Storyboards and 6 movie trailers. Finally you can turn on an audio commentary by various cast and crew members.