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Jason and the Argonauts(1963)
Jason, a fearless sailor and explorer, 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 and with the help of Hera, Queen of the Gods, sets sail in search of the Fleece. Jason and his crew must overcome incredible obstacles including a 100-foot bronze giant, the venomous Hydraa huge creature with the heads of seven snakes, and a battle with an army of skeletons.
For more about Jason and the Argonauts and the Jason and the Argonauts Blu-ray release, see Jason and the Argonauts Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 14, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond, Laurence Naismith, Michael Gwynn, Niall MacGinnis
Director: Don Chaffey
» See full cast & crew
Jason and the Argonauts Blu-ray Review
Classic adventure comes to Blu-ray with a top-notch presentation from Sony.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 14, 2010
Kill Jason and kill yourself.
Mythology. Fantasy. History. These and, of course, Ray Harryhausen's signature stop motion animation effects are the elements that comprise one of the great Adventure films of all time, Jason and the Argonauts. Its visuals may not have withstood the test of time, but Jason and the Argonauts' ability to deliver rousing action and adventure that are derivatives of its story and not solely products of its special effects set it apart from the pack while strengthening it as a film that's still relevant and exciting even in this, the era of practically seamless computer-generated special effects. Best of all, Jason works as a prime example of classic cinematic grandeur, the picture telling a story of high adventure with an epic score, great vision, fine direction, good acting, and an almost relentless pace. Best of all, the movie's exciting and just a blast to watch.
The land of Thessaly is in chaos. Its ruler, King Aristo, has been overthrown by the power-hungry Pelias (Douglas Wilmer). A prophesy foretells of a one-sandaled son of Aristo who will one day himself overthrow Pelias and restore peace and prosperity to Thessaly. That man is Jason (Todd Armstrong), and twenty years into Pelias' reign, he embarks on an adventure that will save the land. Pelias -- who keeps his identity veiled -- encourages Jason to make the effort to restore the land to its rightful heir, believing the son of Aristo will fail. Jason must undertake a dangerous quest that will lead him to the end of the world in search of a fabled golden fleece that's said to have extraordinary powers. Jason assembles the finest men in all of Greece and constructs the greatest ship ever built, hoping these to be enough to succeed on his journey. Jason also finds favor with the goddess Hera (Honor Blackman), wife of Zeus (Niall MacGinnis). Zeus grants Hera the power to aid Jason five times on his quest. Will Jason find the fleece with the help of Greece's finest men and a powerful goddess, or will the many deadly challenges along the way prove too much for the intrepid adventurer and his men to bear?
At its most basic, Jason and the Argonauts is a snatch-and-grab quest film; a specialized group of men are chosen for their various skills to accompany a warrior on a quest to find a valuable item. There's plenty of danger, close calls, excitement, and marvelous wonders to behold along the way. If it sounds familiar, well, it's a familiar refrain in the world of literature and entertainment. From Tolkien to Kelly's Heroes, the search for that elusive prize that promises to make everything right in a world gone wrong is a popular plot device because it's so universal in appeal. Who can't dream of a ring of invisibility, countless riches, or in Jason's time, a golden fleece that promises "the power to heal, bring peace, and rid the land of plague and famine." It's not The Holy Grail, but Jason's fleece isn't too shabby, either. Additionally, the story is well thought-out with plenty of action and several elements that lend to it a greater sense of danger and urgency. Jason's opportunity to ask for Hera's help five times along the way lends a wonderful dynamic to the picture. When should he seek her help? For what purpose? Will he have used all his requests when he needs one the most? The picture's blend of ancient heroics, swordplay, fantasy, and supernatural elements form a combination too good not to work in the right hands, and Director Don Chaffey sees all the components through to their greatest potential. He weaves together a well-paced film that finds a place for all it has to offer; never does the picture suffer when there's a downturn in action or an absence of Harryahusen's special effects. There's just enough chit-chat to keep the film moving along to its bread-and-butter action and effects scenes, and the acting's rock-solid too, particularly from Todd Armstrong as Jason, Nigel Green as Hercules, Niall MacGinnis as Zeus, and Honor Blackman as Hera.
A good story and high adventure, yes, but Jason and the Argonauts will forever be remembered as, arguably, Ray Harryhausen's finest work. Although his stop motion effects pale in comparison to today's CGI extravaganzas, one cannot help but appreciate the innate artistry and effort that went into each shot. Sure, they're absent the seamlessness of today's effects-driven movies like 2012 and Transformers, but there's also a charm to the simplicity, not to mention the underlying -- and far more crucial -- element that allows the story, and not its effects, to remain the focus of the movie. In a strange way, Talos' clunky movements, Jason's phony-looking appearance before the Greek gods, and the skeletal army's mechanical combat techniques seem to keep the movie on an even keel, giving it a sort of escapist and altogether fantastical and dream-like quality that's absent in some of today's admittedly wondrous special effects. Supporting Harryhausen's work is some exceptional costuming and set pieces; Jason's ship the Argo, in particular, is a true work of art, the vessel meticulously detailed and painstakingly constructed down to every last oar and plank. No, nothing about Jason and the Argonauts is as seamless and glossy as something like Star Trek, but there's no denying just how good the movie looks thanks to a lot of dedication, elbow grease, and moviemaking magic that just can't be reproduced inside a computer.
Jason and the Argonauts Blu-ray, Video Quality
It's rough, it's grainy, and it's glorious. Jason and the Argonauts sails onto Blu-ray with a gorgeous 1080p, 1.66:1-framed transfer that places small vertical black bars on either side of the 1.78:1 display. The harshest elements generally accompany the special effects shots; thick halos surround various objects, blacks overpower the image, and grain is at its heaviest in those scenes. Generally, however, the more generalized images that are absent any special effects elements sparkle, particularly most any bright outdoor scene. Details are exemplary; porous and natural-looking faces, beads of sweat, wear-and-tear on armor and weapons, and stitches in clothing are all wonderfully defined. Colors are stable and handsome, never overly bright nor at any point even the slightest bit dulled. Both brighter and paler shades -- bright red garbs, the sandy terrains, and blue seas -- are all reflective of a good, quality presentation. Flesh tones, likewise, are consistently natural. No doubt the image exhibits some rough-looking patches, but this is Jason and the Argonauts; this Blu-ray disc appears to reflect the film in its natural state, as it should appear. In that regard, this is another very high-quality Blu-ray release from Sony.
Jason and the Argonauts Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Jason and the Argonauts floats onto Blu-ray with a sound DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Most listeners familiar with classic movie soundtracks on Blu-ray can probably guess that this one's pound-for-pound no match for Terminator Salvation, but it's a very high quality presentation when judged on its own merits and not compared to anything more modern and far more robust. The track is decidedly front heavy with most of the action coming from the center speaker. Dialogue is nicely balanced and effortless throughout. Most of the picture's sound effects don't stray far from center-front, either, though various atmospheric elements -- gently rolling waters and creaks and cracks on the wooden vessel, for instance -- manage to find their way onto either side of the soundstage. The track is nicely supportive of the age and style of the movie; listeners simply need understand that the "5.1" designation doesn't necessarily equate to a high-octane, wholly-engulfing listen. For Jason and the Argonauts, Sony's lossless DTS track performs admirably.
Jason and the Argonauts Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Jason and the Argonauts comes to Blu-ray packed with extras. Two audio commentary tracks lead the charge, and the first contains special effects guru Ray Harryhausen and Film Historian Tony Dalton. No surprise, this track covers little beyond the special effects; the duo speaks on Jason's legacy, the construction of its effects, set designs, original concepts, and much more. Track two features Director Peter Jackson and Visual Effects Artist Randall William Cook. This track looks at the film from an historical and retrospective angle; neither participant worked on the film, but they provide a lively and passionate discussion about not only the film and Ray Harryhausen's effects but the history of the era in which it was released, trivia surrounding the picture, the work of Director Don Chaffey, the performances and careers of the actors, and plenty more. Film buffs, historians, budding special effects artists, and of course fans of the film will find plenty to love about both of these tracks.
Original Skeleton Fight Storyboards (1080p) offers viewers a rare glimpse of newly-found storyboards that show the skeleton attack sequence as Ray Harryhausen had originally envisioned it. The Ray Harryhausen Legacy (480p, 25:32) features a collection of film historians, directors, visual effects artists, and others speaking on how Ray Harryhausen's films influenced their careers and the field of special effects. Ray Harryhausen Interviewed by Director John Landis (480p, 11:52) features a discussion on how stop motion photography works, the film's characters, shooting locations, and Harryhausen's favorite scenes. Next up is The Harryhausen Chronicles (Narrated by Leonard Nimoy) (480p, 57:57), a lengthy but worthwhile and well-made retrospective piece that looks back on the special effects wizard's life and career. Rounding out this collection of extras is BD-Live functionality; two Jason and the Argonauts trailers (1080p, 1:26 & 3:00); the film's sweepstakes trailer (1080p, 0:56); eight TV spots advertising Jason and the Argonauts (1080p, various runtimes); and 1080p trailers for Ghostbusters, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 20 Million Miles to Earth, It Came From Beneath the Sea, and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.
Jason and the Argonauts Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Though it may not tickle the fancy of viewers who grew up with Gollum and Jar Jar Binks, Jason and the Argonauts still packs a punch as a relevant and exciting special effects extravaganza that, like The Lord of the Rings but unlike the Star Wars prequels, builds its effects around a story rather than its story around special effects. Sure, the walking skeletons, Talos, the Harpies, and the Hydra aren't in the least bit convincing in 2010 (and, honestly, probably weren't in 1963, either), but Jason and the Argonauts works well beyond its effects, the picture a grand spectacle of cinematic adventure that's still today a wonderful time at the movies. Jason and the Argonauts has earned a splendid high definition Blu-ray release, complete with an exceptionally faithful 1080p transfer and a treasure trove of extra content. No doubt about it, Jason and the Argonauts comes highly recommended.
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Jason and the Argonauts Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Jason and the Argonauts Blu-ray Announced - April 26, 2010
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has set July 6 as the Blu-ray release date for the 1963 mythological action/adventure movie Jason and the Argonauts, featuring visual effects by Ray Harryhausen, including a famous fight sequence between live-action warriors and ...
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