Crowd Pleasers II

film 3 of 5

Jason and the Argonauts

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 28, 2015

Alright, let’s get this out of the way. The models of all these Greek-mythological prodigies. don’t look real. That wasn’t really the point. They were supposed to look cool, or magical, which is a whole ‘nother matter.

This too? Something might be a bit off with the film’s direction. Jason, which is to say the fellow playing him, isn’t especially charismatic, is he?

There. Now. Jason and the Argonauts is so amazing! When we got our first dvd player, this is the first movie we watched on it. Not by accident, either! We were trying to be symbolic, or ritualistic. I highly recommend you do the same thing the next time you get someone to pay for your stuff.

What’s so special? I’m glad you asked. Figure animator Ray Harryhausen gets and deserves a lot of acclaim. More than that, he—or maybe it’s the films he laboured over—sometimes gets cut a lot of slack. Well he deserves it, transcendental craftsman and beautiful soul that he was. But in the case of this film, like perhaps no other, there’s no undue subsidy at all. Keep track of his creations here. Look how varied, and how smoothly they blend into the trajectory of the whole. Each one is carefully, subtly, wonderfully better than what went just before. Or maybe it’s not that. Each one gathers or adds to what went just before, until by the time we get to the warriors that spring from the Hydra’s teeth—that one shot! and Bernard Hermann’s score!—we have the most marvelously cumulative effect. It’s more than just adventure. It’s wonder! It’s a shining of the eyes. It’s the intelligent resourcefulness of hard-working people who put themselves in our service. It’s so lovely!

May I pause to admire the so-languor of the Olympian sequences, of the residents of Olympia? And there’s a camera move that attends and heightens a certain feat of strength by Nigel Green’s superb Hercules … Let me take something back. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the film’s direction. I just had something in my eye, some contemporary scoffy dismissive whining beam, that has nothing to do with the thing that I’m supposed to be judging. This is just so very, very good.