Jason (Todd Armstrong, voice dubbed by Tim Turner) has returned to Thessaly to reclaim the throne that his father lost 20 years ago when Pelias (Douglas Wilmer) killed him. In order to be able to take the throne away and kill Pelias, he must go to the end of the world to Colchis in the search of the mythical Golden Fleece. Jason must now set sail with a legendary crew, including Hercules (Nigel Green) and Acustus (Gary Raymond), on an adventure that will face them against a giant iron soldier, a hydra, and more. With the help of the Goddess Hera, Jason must overcome all the obstacles to reach his goal.
Ray Harryhausen is known for his style with visual effects and many will remember his work on Clash of the Titans, but Jason and the Argonauts is much older than that and even then you can see Harryhausen’s touch and vision. Sure, it’s nothing compared to today’s visual effects and CGI that everyone is so accustomed. His creative work has lead Jason and the Argonauts to be one of the best films ever made him. The giant iron Talos figure standing tall chasing after Jason and his crew is still considered one of the most memorable creatures or the hydra with its many independent moving heads. There are plenty of things to pick from that just looks so ahead of its time because of the innovation and creativeness, but the thing that stands out the most is the unforgettable is the battle against the skeleton army that is as innovative and creative at the same time. The mythical monsters breathe life thanks to the genius work of Harryhausen and without him I am not sure how this film would turn out at the time.
It is really impressive to see how one man was able to design most of the film, design the visual effects, monsters, and bring life to the monsters themselves. Moving on, Jason and the Argonauts isn’t a film that capture the hearts of the younger generation, just like Clash of the Titans, it features early visual effects that look rather funky by today’s standards. Everyone is so busy worrying about how pretty a film’s CGI looks rather than appreciating the past that help to lay way to today’s visual effects. The story tends to be very well executed and rarely does it fall into sections that will get an onlooker bored. Ever scene appears to be worked properly in order to build up some action. There’s something you must consider when watching the film, the acting is very fitting to the time when filmed, so if for some reason you find it to a certain point unbelievable just try to keep it in perspective that it was how many films were acted during the 60s and 70s. For the record, I think the acting is excellent with several actors adding some personality to their characters like Jason played by Todd Armstrong, Hercules by Nigel Green, and Hera by Honor Blackman to name a few.
Jason and the Argonauts arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG4-AVC encode framed at 1.66:1. For starters you must consider the age of the film and come to term that the way you see Jason and the Argonauts is the best possible version out there. The image is for the most part very detailed. Colors at times appear very vibrant specially the red capes and garments worn by the characters among other things. Colors green and red stand out the most. The image appears to have been cleaned of speckles and other artifacts that used to plague the film. Although this release has been undergone some cleanup the film retained the heavy layer of grain and much of its original look. There is some scene, especially during the stop motion sequences, that the image becomes flat and fussy, but this is more inherent from the original source and techniques used to film these sequences. Overall, Jason and the Argonauts looks very good!
Jason and the Argonauts arrives on Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless track. The engineers over at Sony have done a tremendous job creating a new 5.1 mix for this film and the results are fantastic. This newly created mix gives the sound some directionality. The original source doesn’t really have much in the terms of atmospherics so don’t be expecting for this release to change that. The dialogue is crisp and clean. To round off this release the score by Bernard Herrmann sounds fantastic. There is very little bass presence, but during scenes when the score starts playing there’s some bass being used. For audiophiles, Sony has also included the original mono track from the previous releases.
I have to applaud Sony’s determination to provide the best possible experience for the fans and consumers alike. A perfect example is this release that Sony has created new extras for Jason and the Argonauts never before seen on previous releases.
Audio Commentary – The first commentary track is with director of Peter Jackson and visual effects artist Randall William Cook. This track deals with the actors and actresses, the production, the cinematography, and Harryhausen’s special effects. This track is excellent and both speakers are very detailed that rarely does it become boring.
Audio Commentary – The second track is with none other than Ray Harryhausen himself accompanied by film historian Tony Dalton. This track is very engaging and allows the viewers to really get to appreciate his work especially once he starts talking about the monsters appearing on the screen. Harryhausen shares some anecdotes and difficulties during the creation of each sequence. This is a must for any film fan.
Ray Harryhausen Interviewed by Director John Landis – This featurette gives the opportunity to the viewers to see a conversation between John Landis and Ray Harryhausen explaining the film’s stop-motion process and the monsters that are featured in the film. Harryhausen shows at some point the skeleton models that he used in the film and is quite amazing what he was able to accomplish it. This is certainly another piece that is worth to watch. This piece has been recycled from previous releases.
Original Skeleton Fight Storyboards – This featurette shows a newly discovered storeyboard drawings for the skeleton army fight scene. These drawings reveal plans for a different sequence within the skeleton army fight, but unfortunately never made it to the final cut.
Ray Harryhausen Chronicles – This is an hour-long documentary on the long successful career of Ray Harryhausen, narrated by Leonard Nimoy.
The Harryhausen Legacy – This features many directors that talk about how their careers were influenced by Harryhausen’s work.
TV Spots – This release includes 8 TV spots and it includes a 1963 sweepstakes trailer.
Previews – Trailers for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Ghostbusters, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, 20 Million Miles From Earth, and It Came From Beneath the Sea.
Jason and the Argonauts is one of Ray Harryhausen masterpieces with a set of unforgettable classic stop motion sequences. His mater work with models helped bring alive the various monsters featured in the film. Harryhausen’s work in Jason and the Argonauts is impressive and has led the way for the way visual effects are done today. Sony went an extra mile to create the best possible experience creating all new high definition supplements. Any true fan of film will find no excuse to make Jason and the Argonauts a part of this of their collection. The film won’t win a younger generation of viewers, but regardless I recommend at least a rent.
The screen captures are only a small representation of what the Blu-ray looks like and are not representative of Blu-ray’s true quality.