Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

Jason and the Argonauts (1963), directed by Don Chaffey.

Perhaps my favorite scene in movies when I was 10 or 12 years old: the evil king (who is just trying to protect his own) invokes a curse and sows the hydra's teeth. The three stalwart Greek warriors are already looking scared, as if hearing the ominous soundtrack. The skeleton soldiers sprout from the earth and are formed into ranks by the king. As one man, the Greeks draw their swords, dropping the scabbards. The edge-of-the-cliff battle begins.

This is heads and shoulders above the average kids' chasing and fighting entertainment: a peek at Greek mythology, the relations between the gods and men, the squabbling among the crew, fine cast and scenery, and Harryhausen Dynamation. Probably his most ambitious project and said to be his favorite. I love how his creatures seem to have personality, how they sway and stagger, overbalancing as they move.

You'd think the ruins would be newer and less ruined back then. On second thought: the Jason story predates classical architecture by centuries. On third thought: the story came before the temples and is still with us after the stones have crumbled into ruins. Myth is stronger than marble: how about that?

Dancing girls: well, they had those back then as part of the decor. Quick love interest: fearless hero gets the girl, check. The plot is only loosely suggestive of the original story. The film sort of completes in the middle, before Jason can get back home and reclaim his kingdom.

When I saw this in a theater as an adult, some girls were giggling at the Hera figurehead: she has "dolls eyes".

Filmed in Italy. Rousing Bernard Herrmann score. This is the first time I've noticed the music turns comical during the skeleton fight; maybe he just couldn't take it seriously. (Turns out this is recycled from radio music he did decades earlier).

Available on Blu-ray. The image detail is quite a bit softer than the best parts of 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957). Two commentary tracks: (1) Harryhausen and his biographer, (2) the enthusiastic Peter Jackson and effects man Randall William Cook, both life-long fans.