Jason and the Argonauts (1963) - Illustrated Reference

Ray Harryhausen
Ray Harryhausen
Poseidon - art by Ray Harryhausen
Poseidon - art by Ray Harryhausen
Jason and the Hydra - art by Ray Harryhausen
Jason and the Hydra - art by Ray Harryhausen
The Skeleton Fight - art by Ray Harryhausen
The Skeleton Fight - art by Ray Harryhausen

Jason and the Argonauts was directed by Don Chaffey and premiered on 19th June 1963. Starring Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond, Laurence Naismith, Niall MacGinnis, Honor Blackman, Michael Gwynn, Douglas Wilmer, Jack Gwillim, Patrick Troughton and Nigel Green. Screenplay by Jan Read & Beverly Cross. Music by Bernard Herrmann. 104mins.

Jason searches for the fabled Golden Fleece in the land of Colchis.

Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013) was 13 when he saw King Kong (1933) on the big screen, he was mesmerised by the magic of the special effects bringing Kong to life. He went back and saw Kong again and again, over 200 times according to various interviews.

Harryhausen read everything he could about the making of Kong and became very interested in the art of stop-motion animation. He got his first job at Paramount after presenting them with a demo reel of some stop motion dinosaurs he created. He started working at George Pal’s Puppetoon series of shorts.

Willis O’Brien, the special effects master on King Kong, hired Ray as his assistant on a film he was working on at RKO, Mighty Joe Young (1949). Ray ended up doing most of the stop motion animation on the film which won an Oscar for its visual effects, picked up by Willis O'Brien..

It was the appearance of King Kong again that would kick start Ray’s solo career in special effects. Kong was re-released successfully in 1952 and Warner Bros Studios wanted to make a monster movie, they hired Ray to animate The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953). The film was a hit inspiring the Japanese to make their own giant sea monster, Godzilla (1954).

For his next film It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) Ray started a partnership with producer Charles H. Schneer (1920-2009) which would continue throughout his career. Two science fiction films followed – Earth vs the Flying Saucers (1956) and 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), which featured the Ymir, a monster from Venus.

Ray’s first movie in colour was the Arabian Nights fantasy The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), the film featured two Cyclops, a snake woman, a fire-breathing dragon, two-headed Roc, a sword fighting skeleton, a genie and a wicked sorcerer, it was Ray’s biggest hit of the 50’s.

He followed Sinbad with The Three Worlds of Gulliver (1960) and Mysterious Island (1961). But for his next film Ray looked at the myths of Ancient Greece for inspiration.

Todd Armstrong
Todd Armstrong
Nancy Kovack
Nancy Kovack
Todd Armstrong & Nancy Kovack
Todd Armstrong & Nancy Kovack
Gary Raymond
Gary Raymond
Laurence Naismith
Laurence Naismith
Niall MacGinnis and Honor Blackman
Niall MacGinnis and Honor Blackman
Michael Gwynne
Michael Gwynne
Douglas Wilmer
Douglas Wilmer
Jack Gwillim
Jack Gwillim
Patrick Troughton
Patrick Troughton
Nigel Green
Nigel Green

Jason: Are you a priestess?
Medea: l serve in the temple of Hecate.
Jason: A dancer. ls Hecate the god of the Colchians?
Medea: A goddess.
Jason: l heard they worshipped a strange idol. The skin of a ram.
Medea: lts fleece is of gold. The gift of the gods themselves. lt brought us peace and prosperity.
Jason: We'll put you ashore tomorrow. Perhaps you'll show us to the city. Now tell me your name.
Medea: Medea. Who are you?
Jason: My name is Jason.

Todd Armstrong (1937-1992) / Jason

Born in Missouri, USA, Todd Armstrong’s films include – Walk on the Wild Side (1962), King Rat (1965), and Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966).

Nancy Kovack (1935-) / Medea

Born in Flint, Michigan, Nancy Kovack’s films include – Diary of a Madman (1963), The Outlaws is Coming (1965), The Great Sioux Massacre (1965), The Silencers (1966), Frankie and Johnny (1966), Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966) and Marooned (1969).

Gary Raymond (1935-) / Acastus

Born in London, England, Gary Raymond’s films include – Look Back in Anger (1959), The Millionairess (1960), El Cid (1961) and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).

Laurence Naismith (1908-1992) / Argos

Born in Surrey, England, Laurence Naismith’s films include – Mogambo (1953), The Dam Busters (1955), Richard III (1955), A Night to Remember (1958 as Captain Smith), Camelot (1967 as Merlin), The Valley of Gwangi (1969), Scrooge (1970), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and The Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972).

Niall MacGinnis (1913-1977) / Zeus

Born in Dublin, Ireland, Niall MacGinnis’s films include – The 49th Parallel (1941), Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948), Knights of the Round Table (1953), Helen of Troy (1956), Alexander the Great (1956), Night of the Demon (1957 as Julian Karswell), Billy Budd (1962), The War Lord (1965) and Island of Terror (1966).

Honor Blackman (1927-) / Hera

Born in London, England, Honor Blackman’s films include – A Night to Remember (1958), Goldfinger (1964 as Pussy Galore), Shalako (1968), To the Devil a Daughter (1976), The Cat and the Canary (1978) and Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001). TV series The Avengers (1962-1964) as Cathy Gale.

Michael Gwynne (1916-1976) / Hermes

Born in Somerset, England, Michael Gwynne’s films include – The Camp on Blood Island (1958), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), Village of the Damned (1960), Barabbas (1961), Cleopatra (1963), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), The Deadly Bees (1967) and Scars of Dracula (1970).

Douglas Wilmer (1920-) / King Pelias

Born in London, England, Douglas Wilmer’s films include – Richard III (1955), El Cid (1961), Cleopatra (1963), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), A Shot in the Dark (1964), Khartoum (1966), The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966 as Nayland Smith), Patton (1970, Cromwell (1970), The Vampire Lovers (1970), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974), Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978) and Octopussy (1983).

Jack Gwillim (1909-2001) / King Aeetes

Born in Kent, England, Jack Gwillim’s films include – The Battle of the River Plate (1956), Sink the Bismarck (1960), In Search of the Castaways (1962), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964), Thunderball (1965), Battle of Britain (1969), Patton (1970), Clash of the Titans (1981 as Poseidon) and The Monster Squad (1987 as Van Helsing).

Patrick Troughton (1920-1987) / Phineas

Born in London, England, Patrick Troughton’s films include – Hamlet (1948), Richard III (1955), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), The Gorgon (1964), Scars of Dracula (1970), The Omen (1976 as Father Brennan) and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977 as Melanthius). Patrick was the second actor to play Dr. Who (1966-1969) on TV.

Nigel Green (1924-1972) / Hercules

Born in Pretoria, South Africa, Nigel Green’s films include – Reach for the Sky (1956), Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960), Zulu (1964 as Sgt Bourne), Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Ipcress File (1965), The Skull (1965), The Face of Fu Manchu (1965 as Nayland Smith), Khartoum (1966), Tobruk (1967), Deadlier than the Male (1967), The Wrecking Crew (1969) and Countess Dracula (1970).


Hermes: Zeus, King of the gods of the Greeks. Write in the ashes, so that l may read the future... l see a great tree at the end of the world. And in its branches hang the skull and skin of a ram. They gleam and shine, for it is a prize of the gods. A golden fleece.

Searching for a suitable Greek hero, Ray settled on the story of Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece. Ray started on pre-production drawings and scriptwriters were hired. The film had the working title of ‘Jason and the Golden Fleece’.

Ray had seen Todd Armstrong in the film Walk on the Wild Side (1962) and thought he would be a good Jason. It was later felt that his American accent was too strong and his voice was dubbed by English actor Tim Turner.

It wasn’t just Todd that was dubbed, leading lady Nancy Kovack was dubbed by BBC radio actress Eva Haddon, which makes one wonder why they cast American actors if they were to dub them into English later?

The decision was made to film Jason in Italy with some scenes filmed on sets at Shepperton Studios in England.

At one point the film was to have started in modern times with tourists visiting some ancient Greek ruins, an old man approaches them and tells them the story of Jason, there would than be a slow dissolve to Ancient Greece.

The epic music score was by legendary composer Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975). Herrmann had famously collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock on some of his greatest films. He had also provided excellent scores for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Three Worlds of Gulliver and Mysterious Island.

For the film Ray created the bronze giant Talos, two harpies, the seven-headed Hydra and seven skeleton warriors. Other mythological creatures considered were Cerberus the 3-headed dog which guarded the gates of the underworld and the two sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis.

Talos the Bronze giant standing over the harbour and picking up the Argo was a stand out sequence everyone remembers. Ray had purposely given Talos stiff, jerky movements since he was supposed to be a living bronze statue. In a poll Empire magazine had listed Talos as the 2nd greatest movie monster of all time, no.1 was the original King Kong.

Phineas: Jason, l'll tell you what you want to know only if you meet my price.
Jason: What is your price?
Phineas: Free me from these tormenting Harpies.
Acastus: lf Zeus sent them to plague him, we can't interfere.
Phineas: That's my price.
Jason: Then we'll meet it Phineas. We'll make you the master of the Harpies.

The sequence with the two harpies was filmed at the ancient ruins of Paestum in Salerno, Italy. The biggest temple, 2,500 years old, was used for the scene where Jason and his men trap the harpies tormenting blind Phineas.

Argos: Pray to the gods, Jason!
Jason: The gods of Greece are cruel. In time all men shall learn to live without them.

The god Poseidon was originally meant to be a stop motion creation too but Ray was already too busy animating the other monsters, so an actor was used for the scene where the Argo passes through the clashing rocks. Another memorable sequence in the film, enhanced with Bernard Herrmann’s superb score.

Jason’s battle with the seven-headed Hydra took ages to film. Ray had to remember which Hydra head was moving forward and which was moving backward, frame by frame, and the rest of the body and tail had to be animated too.

King Aeetes: Hecate, queen of darkness! Avenge yourself against the Thessalians. Give me the children of the hydra's teeth. The children of the night!

The biggest challenge for Ray was the climactic sword fight between Jason, Castor, Phalerus and seven sword-brandishing skeletons, children of the Hydra’s teeth. It took Ray Harryhausen four months to animate the sequence which lasts about five minutes on screen. It was the most difficult sequence he had ever worked on.

Jason and the Argonauts was one of the top 10 movies of the year at the UK box office but in America the film had got lost amongst all the Italian Sword and Sandal epics that were coming out at the time, usually starring Steve Reeves or Gordon Scott.

Moviegoers assumed Jason was just another Italian film and ignored it. Jason would be successfully re-released in the 1970’s along with The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Thanks to the worldwide success of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974).

Jason and the Argonauts is Ray’s favourite of his films, “I suppose Jason and the Argonauts would be the most complete film that I’m delighted with. There are bits and pieces I would like to do all over again but that’s wishful thinking.”

Incredibly the film did not receive an Oscar nomination for special effects. The award that year went to Cleopatra.

It wasn’t until 1992 that the Academy decided to honour Ray with a special Oscar, the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, presented to him by Tom Hanks who had lobbied the Academy to give Ray an Oscar for his work in fantasy cinema.

In his introduction of the award Tom Hanks said “Some people say Casablanca or Citizen Kane. I say Jason and the Argonauts is the greatest film ever made."

Zeus: For the moment, let them enjoy a calm sea, a fresh breeze and each other. The girl is pretty and I am always sentimental. But for Jason, there are other adventures. I have not finished with Jason. Let us continue the game another day.


The Critics Wrote –

"Rambling semi-classic mythological fantasy which keeps it's tongue firmly in cheek and provides a framework for some splendid stop-frame animation." (Leslie Halliwell)

"This absurd, unwieldy adventure — if that's the word—is no worse, but certainly no better, than most of its kind. The ingredients are the usual milling hordes of warriors with historical or mythological footnotes, monsters, magic and carefully exposed limbs and torsos." (New York Times)

"Among the spectacular mythological landscape and characters brought to life through the ingenuity of illusionist Ray Harryhausen are a remarkably lifelike mobile version of the colossal bronze god, Talos; fluttery personifications of the bat-winged Harpies;

- a miniature representation of the 'crashing rocks' through which Jason's vessel must cruise; a menacing version of the seven-headed Hydra; a batch of some astonishingly active skeletons who materialize out of the teeth of Hydra, handsome Todd Armstrong does a commendable job as Jason and Nancy Kovak is beautiful as his Medea." (Variety)

"A splendidly spectacular treatment, rich in mythical monsters, trick camera effects and muscle-flexing men." (Daily Herald)

"A terrific adventure for all ages, featuring harpies, a seven-headed hydra, duelling skeletons and other phenomena. It boasts some of the greatest stop-motion animation in screen history (by courtesy of Ray Harryhausen) and a surprisingly intelligent script." (Chris Tookey)

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24 comments

Flora Breen Robison 4 years ago

Hey! I know you publish every couple days, so I thought you were about due for a new hub. :)

Looks like I beat Bruce to seeing it, but we will see how long it takes for me to comment.

I've seen this movie a couple times, but not lately.

I did notice the music being Bernard-esque when I first heard it and was not surprised to see Herrmann's names in the credits on the screen.

By the way, I was in a straight play (i.e. not a musical) called Medea. I was the Nurse to Medea's children. I had to open the play with a long monologue. It was the only play I've been in where I did no singing at all. It is noted that as in any Greek play, their was a choir that chanted, so there was music in the chants.

Although I have seen the actors in this every now and then, the only one I can say I've seen *most* of her career is Honor Blackman.

I see there are more than one Bond connection to this film, as well as to Hitchcock-both favourites of yours :)

Amazing this film wasn't even nominated in the special effects category. I've seen some of Ray's films at least once, but not all.


Phillbert profile image

Phillbert 4 years ago from The Ozarks

Great Hub! I like all the pictures!


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Philbert, thanks for the comment, it is appreciated.

Hi Flora, good to see you're still around. You were Medea in a play eh, interesting, were they chanting the name of the goddess Hecate? There were plenty of Bond connections in the filmographies and all those Shakespearean and historical credits too! I was impressed. :)

It's a crime that none of Harryhausen's movies got any Oscar recognition. The only film he worked on that did win was Mighty Joe Young and Willis O'Brien collected the award, he was head of special effects.

Thanks as ever for posting.


A.A. Zavala profile image

A.A. Zavala 4 years ago from Texas

ONE OF MY FAVORITE MOVIES! I saw this in kindergarden in a school assembly. My favorite scenes: Poseiden holding back the singing mountains and the battle with Talos. Awesome Steve!


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Hey thanks Zavala, appreciate the comment. The first time I saw Jason was at the cinema in a re-run back in the 70's. It's probably my favourite Harryhausen film.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

I have seen this movie a number of times and I never get sick of it - it's such a good story that I always find something new in it every time I see it. The photos you used here are great (as always), interesting hub.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Jools, your comment is appreciated as always. The cool thing about the photos is I can make as many as I want direct from the DVD, always many more than I intend to post, the challenge is choosing which ones to post and which ones to sadly leave behind, never to be viewed. [wipes tear] :)


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

This is a movie that I have not seen. I think I have seen bits and pieces of the movie as a kid, but not enough for me to remember it very well. I will be adding this movie on my movies to watch list. Lots of great information and photos as per your high standards. I will have to return to this hub when I watch the movie.

As for things I found interesting....good to see Honor Blackman in another movie and even better to see she is still alive and kicking. Another Bond link is Douglas Wilmer from Octopussy. Other than those two actors/actresses I am not familiar with the other ones you mentioned.....just when I start to think I know something about movies...you publish a hub like this one where I go back to my corner shaking my head...."I do not know anything about movies"....voted up and interesting.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Bruce your comments and observations are of course appreciated.

I'm surprised you missed this one growing up, have you seen any Ray Harryhausen films? The 7th Voyage of Sinbad with the Cyclops? Or One Million Years BC with my favourite special effect, Raquel Welch in a fur bikini? :)

Pussy Galore is 85 years old...


Flora Breen Robison 4 years ago

Whenever I mention that play to the man who did the sound and lighting-a friend of mine-he always makes a little cross sign to ward off talk of the show. Hew had a hard time of it.

Jools-I tried to leave you a message via Contact Jools99 but decided I didn't want to go through the moderators who-despite me bein gbanned still allow people to contact me to tell me how hot my picture is. Really. Shall I contact the moderators about his harassment? No, I don't think so. But I have been banned as an author on this site. I haven't been banned as a reader-you know how Cogerson's friends and family have accounts just to comment, without writing any hubs. But to do that I have to be signed in, and singing in means I'm given all these updates on comments I don't want -so I prefer to sign in as a guest user. But I will try to follow your Brit TV series as I love reading about televsion from Britain.

Back to the film-

You haven't seen it Bruce? You must try to see some of Ray's films if you haven't.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Hi Flora, I'm still kind of shocked that Bruce hasn't seen Jason. I don't think Bruce was interested in fantasy, sci-fi or horror as a kid. Those were the genre's I was most interested in when I was young, later as I got older I started appreciating other types of films like musicals and dramas.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I enjoyed all the information on all the actors as well as the movie and its creator-- lots of nuggets there. I knew that bearded dude looked familiar-- the Sgt in Zulu! Voted up and interesting.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

I do not think some of these fantasy movies were in heavy rotation growing up. Until I was about 15 or 16 the only movies I got to watch were the ones on NBC Sunday Night Movie or really old ones that played on the weekends during the day or horror movies around midnight.

Thank goodness VHS/BETA and cable tv came around...because with video rental and AMC(when they really showed classic movies) I caught up on all lots of classic movies....but taking a look at Ray Harryhausen's other titles I have seen some of his other movies.

I did notice on my 2nd viewing of this hub, that I did not notice Nigel Green...I of course know him from two of my dad's favorite early Michael Caine movie....Zulu and The Ipcress File. FYI. Did you know his Sgt. Bourne character actually survived until the end of World War 2? He was the last living member of that conflict....unless of course a member of the Zulu's outlived him.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

UnnamedHarald, Cogerson, thanks for commenting.

I really liked Nigel Green as Sgt.Bourne in Zulu, probably the role he is best remembered for. Sadly he was only 47 when he died of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills.

Bruce, I didn't know Sgt. Bourne was the last living person to die from those that survived at Rourke's Drift, thanks for that bit of info. He lived a lot longer than the actor who played him.

Btw there is also a 3-hour TV movie of Jason and the Argonauts (2000). Jason was played by Jason London and Dennis Hopper played King Pelias.


Doc Sonic profile image

Doc Sonic 4 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

In my opinion, Jason and the Argonauts is the pinnacle of Harryhausen's career. This is an excellent reference to the film - you could've included a little more Nancy Kovack, but other than that, it's perfect.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Haha you're right, not enough Nancy Kovack, posted too many special effects shots instead or too little depending on who's viewing it. :)

Hmmm there is room for one more picture. I'll see if I've got one of her dancing in the temple.

Thanks for posting.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Hi Steve; I love Harryhausen. My pals and I used to rent out Harryhausen films all the time. This one was one of his best. It was a good adventure films but the FX really make it awesome.

Patrick Troughton was my favorite 'Dr. Who' so it was good to see him in a small role in here. The guy who played Jason was sort of bland but not fatally. Honor Blackman (from the Avengers) was good as Hera.

Another fun hub with great pictures.

Rob


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Rob, your comment is appreciated. I used to have Super 8 digests of Jason and 7th Voyage of Sinbad, they would edit all the good bits into less than 20mins on two reels of film and I than use my Eumig projector to beam the movie onto my tripod screen... aah memories. :)

I also had One Million Years BC and Golden Voyage of Sinbad on Super 8, I still have them in a box somewhere in the attic, never to be used again.


Cogerson 4 years ago

Just got through watching this movie. Sadly I watched it on a subpar DVD version. Your photos are so much better than the DVD I just watched. But the special effects were outstanding, and I agree they seem very worthy of an Oscar nomination. I would say Poseidon holding back the rocks and Jason fighting the Hydra looked the best. So they did not make a sequel with Todd Armstrong? I was surprised that the movie ended so quickly. Thanks for the suggestion.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Hello um Cogerson? Any relation to the hubpages Cogerson? Thanks for commenting, much appreciated.

The problem with the old Harryhausen films is that when there are several elements in use for merging the stop motion with the live action the picture quality is degraded. If you look at my screenshots the shots without effects are much clearer than than the ones with. Even the Blu-ray copy was a little grainy in places.


Cogerson 4 years ago

On mobile device....very hard to sign in and comment.....but this is the one and only Cogerson....lol.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Ray Harryhausen 1920-2013

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-22441...

Rest in peace.


Eduardo Siqueira profile image

Eduardo Siqueira 16 months ago

Thank you for this splendid page with so many good informations about Jason and The Argonauts: I have been researching about Todd Armstrong's career since last november 2014 and your page gave me new directions to go ahead. Last, but not least, thanks a lot for bringing respect for Ray Harryhausen's wonderful life.

Jason and The Argonauts is among my favorite films, and will endure among many fans of good cinema and better dreams.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 16 months ago from London, England Author

Thanks for the kind words Eduardo. Jason and the Argonauts has always been one of my favorite movies, the film has legions of fans worldwide. Hubpages provided me with the opportunity to produce a hub on Ray Harryhausen's fantasy classic. Good luck with your research.

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