Three million dollars were spent on Jason and the Argonauts, mainly on the ‘Dynamation 90’ special effects created by Ray Harryhausen – and it was not difficult to see where the money went.
This lively and imaginative re-telling of the Greek myth begins with a siege and slaughter by the power-mad Acastus (Gary Raymond), who kills the entire royal family of Thessaly – except tiny baby Jason.
Years later, a grown Jason (Todd Armstrong) returns home to make his rightful claim to the throne. But his people need more than a conqueror – they need inspiration.
When Jason hears of the magical Golden Fleece, with its legendary powers to guide a nation to prosperity, the quest is on.
After a powwow with Hera, queen of the gods and his own personal protector (Honor Blackman), he recruits the brave Argonauts to man his ship, and the crew sets sail.
The Argonauts and their dashing leader clash with a variety of titans and assorted mythic beasties along the way: the 100-foot bronze statue of Talos who comes to life, the bat-like and screech-happy Harpies, the seven-headed reptilian Hydra, and an army of skeletons (pictured) who skitter around with sword and shield.
Mercifully, there’s a lot of divine intervention along the way.
Hera, to the raised eyebrows of her Mount Olympus cohorts, frequently helps her boy out, and at one point, sea-god Poseidon emerges from the churning seas and holds the huge Clashing Rocks apart, so that Jason’s ship, the Argo, can sail safely between.
Nancy Kovack as the high priestess Medea was certainly pretty to look at, and even coped well with the dialogue Jan Read and Beverly Cross wrote for her. But to boast – as a studio handout boastingly did – that her performance followed in the footsteps of Maria Callas (a renowned operatic Medea) was tantamount to entering the fantasy realms in which the film was set.
Harryhausen and producer Charles H. Schneer teamed up for further fantasy epics over the next two decades, including The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and Clash of the Titans (1981).