Jason and the Argonauts (Don Chaffey / U.S.-United Kingdom, 1963):

The camera travels across a mural for the opening credits, then passes from flatness to deep-focus simply and rather beautifully by panning from a Greek soldier in profile (Corinthian helmet, red plumes against oceanic blues) to the camp in which Pelias (Douglas Wilmer) receives his prophecy. The slaughter of Aristo’s family is swift; only baby Jason is saved, and returns to Thessaly as a young warrior (Todd Armstrong) claiming his rightful throne. Jason is a callow non-believer until Hermes (Michael Gywnn) appears to him one night, Godzilla-sized, takes him to Mt. Olympus and fills him in on the Golden Fleece at the edge of the world. In this satire of mythical determinism, Hera (Honor Blackman) and Zeus (Nial MacGinnis) are Mom and Pop at the chessboard, Hercules (Nigel Green) is a paunchy ex-celebrity coasting on the labors while Medea (Nancy Kovack) is a painted odalisque. Don Chaffey sculpts the easygoing spectacle of plaster and tunics, Ray Harryhausen elevates the beefcakey subtext with the appearance of bronze colossus Thalos, a clanking Kong that crushes Jason’s vessel when it sails between its spread legs. (The off-switch is located by the giant’s ankle, naturally.) The blind old sinner (Patrick Troughton) curses the heavens and takes revenge on the pesky harpies, and then there’s Neptune holding the "Clashing Rocks" apart so the heroes can squeeze through, and the hissing Ghidra’s mass of tangled necks, all done with an animator’s droll cunning. "Against the children of the Ghidra’s teeth, there’s no protection," declares King Aeetes (Jack Gwillim), and so, with five minutes left, Harryhausen summons a troupe of ossified swordfighters. Jason’s journey finds the "calm sea," but the tremendous skeletons kept on marching to the Evil Dead trilogy. With Gary Raymond, and Laurence Naismith.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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