“Jason and the Argonauts” on the Royale With Cheese Movie Club

Are you serious, Chuck? You’ve NEVER seen “Jason and the Argonauts,” not once, not ever? Do you know about the skeleton fight? Do you know about the battle with the bronze giant Talos? Do you know –

If I “knew” all these things, I wouldn’t need to see the film, now would I?

Jason and the Argonauts was a re-imagining of the legend of the Greek warrior who sought the Golden Fleece.  I was up last night, couldn’t sleep – damn insomnia’s back again – so I scoured my iTunes account for a good film rental.

And yes… it’s available as a purchase and as a rental.  Fire up the popcorn maker, it’s time for a late night movie.

And if you get past all the hokey “sword and sandals” action and the plotline that featured a Bond girl (Honor Blackman) as one of the gods, and a Harpy-tormented character that looked suspiciously like one of the early Doctors from Doctor Who… and some dialogue that sounded like it was cribbed from an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess

It’s a really, really good film.  In fact, here’s the trailer to get you interested.

And part of the reason why this is such a good film is the inclusion of four animation sequences by legendary special effects artist Ray Harryhausen.  In those scenes – the Argonauts fighting Talos, the Argonauts trapping the Harpies; Jason fighting the seven-headed Hydra, and Jason and his men in the final climactic battle against the army of the undead – you forget that you’re watching stop-motion animation.  You forget that the skeletons and the Hydra and the Harpies and Talos are all creatures made of wire armatures and clay, and are hand-moved one frame per exposure, with 24 exposures creating one second of film – and even then, you’re expecting these puppets to interact seamlessly with live-action characters.

And of course, the best and most exciting part of this film is the climactic six-minute long battle scene between Jason and the skeleton army of the undead. Bear in mind – every movement of the skeleton army was crafted in stop-motion animation.  One mistake – and it would show up on the final product, and snap the audience out of their “suspension of disbelief.”  Combine that with the fact that the actors had to fight characters that would be added in post-production. And everything had to be timed just right, or something would look out of place and the animation would appear compromised.

http://www.metacafe.com/fplayer/6491792/jason_and_the_argonauts_1963_dvd_skeleton_fight.swf

Yeah, I finally got to see Jason and the Argonauts. And I’m not going to lie – there’s going to be some moments when I may want to watch other Ray Harryhausen films, like The Best From 20,000 Fathoms, The Three Worlds of Gulliver and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.