Friday, March 26, 2010

Jason and the Argonauts

Year 2, Day 85 - 3/26/10 - Movie #450

BEFORE: Another mythological film with FX by Harryhausen - I probably watched most of this as a kid, but I'm allowing movies that I don't remember well and haven't watched for over 30 years...

THE PLOT: The legendary Greek hero leads a team of intrepid adventurers in a perilous quest for the legendary Golden Fleece.

AFTER: How to tell a hero from a villain in one of these B-movie adventures from the 1960's:

Hero: "Greetings, stranger, my name is Jason. I come to town to gain vengeance on Pelias, the evil king who killed my father and stole my birthright throne away from me. Do you know where I can find him?"

Stranger (who is actually King Pelias): "Why, no, Jason, but I promise to help you gain vengeance on the evil king. But perhaps first you should sail around the world on a quest for a fabulous object that may not even exist...then you will be powerful enough to face the king. My name? Come now, that's not important - now, go on..."

What a dope Jason is - very easily distracted from the main reason he came to town - and how exactly does gaining the golden fleece give him any power to take over the kingdom he deserves? I don't quite see the point...supposedly the people will rally around the man who holds the fleece, I guess their A.D.D. is as bad as Jason's. "Oh look, a man holding something shiny! Let's make him the king!"

Like Sinbad, Jason and his crew sail from island to island, encountering different giant creatures - one is a giant named Talos, who resembles a giant bronze statue. Fortunately the giant has an Achilles heel, conveniently located near his actual heel, which the goddess Hera reveals to Jason in one of her 5 chances to assist him. The statue is defeated, but at the cost of Hercules' young companion, which causes Hercules to abandon the quest.

The filmmakers played fast and loose with the mythology, opting to edit out the less cinematic parts of Jason's quest, no doubt replacing them with more visual dangers - in the original myth, Hercules' boyfriend (there, I said it...) is seduced by nymphs and drowned in a river, but the end result is the same, Hercules is out of the story, making Jason's quest more difficult. The following clash with the Harpies, and the trip through the Clashing Rocks, however, seem pretty true to the legend. But where are the sirens? They was a major part of the Greek myth...

In the myth, Jason was supposed to perform three difficult tasks before he was able to earn the Golden Fleece, here it's just hanging from a tree, though it's protected by a stop-motion Hydra monster. In the original legend, one of his tasks was to sow a dragon's teeth into a field, and defeat the armed warriors which they turned into - there's a sort of spin on that here as the King of Colchis takes the Hydra's teeth and turns them into the cinematic Harryhausen skeleton warriors.

Skeleton warriors must be really tough to kill - since they don't bleed or feel pain. But how do they swing their swords and carry their shields, if they have no muscles - they can't be very strong, logically...

The movie abruptly ends once Jason, Medea and the Argonauts are on their boat, on the way back to Thessaly. WHAT? We don't even get to see him return with the fleece and become king? Wasn't that the whole point? What a rip-off! This also omits a major portion of Jason's story, where he marries a woman who is NOT Medea, and she doesn't take that well. I think they even made an opera out of that part of the story. Anyway, track down the original legend if you want to see what happened after the Hollywood-style happy ending.

Maybe if the "Clash of the Titans" remake is a hit, someone will do a remake of this one, with updated CGI and green-screening FX...and a proper ending, with Jason returning to Thessaly and killing King Pelias!

RATING: 6 out of 10 exotic, I mean "priestesses".

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