Jason and the Argonauts Review

Martin Dawber has reviewed the Region 2 DVD release of Jason and the Argonauts

A mythical rendering

This is a cherished movie which is firmly enshrined in the history of my movie going youth. In pre CGI days Charles H. Schneer and Ray Harryhausen were a great partnership stretching over many years. They captivated everyone who came in contact with their fantasy films. Jason is well to the forefront of their unique genre of movie making, and for many (me included) is often rated the best of the lot. Following the success of the employment of Dynamation to bring to life the stop animation techniques developed by Harryhausen, the team drew on the fables of Ancient Greece for an action packed retelling of the Jason story. With an intelligent screenplay (not always the case in these films) the story was acted out both on Earth and Olympus – a feature later developed in Clash of the Titans 1981).

Top of the range transfer

Columbia have done DVD enthusiasts proud with an excellent transfer of the film (at long last in widescreen). It seems to have originated from the same source as the laser disc presentation which was issued several years back. There is some pixelation at times, but this is more to do with the original film than this transfer. It is amazing how well the film looks. The colours are well held with no bleed. The special effects still never fail to amaze. Talos must stand out as great creation but everyone’s favourite (including Harryhausen) must be the ultimate fight between the Argonauts and the skeletons conjured up from the hydra’s teeth. The sound is in mono, but is well captured. The dialogue is both crisp and lively and Bernard Herrmann’s unique percussion and brass only score is powerfully rendered.

Well packaged extras

As well as the usual filmographies and trailer, Columbia have given two wonderful extras. First is a well handled interview with Harryhausen conducted by John Landis (another fan), but better by far is the 45 minutes documentary, The Ray Harryhausen Chronicles. Narrated by Leonard Nimoy, the documentary traces Harryhausen’s career from his early teenage years through to his later films. It is tantalisingly crammed with clips from nearly all his features (the sequences from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and Twenty Million Miles to Earth (1957) are beautifully clean – will they ever make it to DVD?). For all those who grew up with these movies, and for all those who have yet to experience these films (if there is anyone), this disc deserves a place in any DVD collection. I will only allow one drawback – Columbia have unfortunately packaged the disc in their plastic jewel case which seems to mean they can crank up the price to £19.99. Howeveer given the price of the laser disc, DVD enthusiasts still have change with this one – really a must have bargain at any price.

Martin Dawber

Updated: Feb 27, 1999

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