Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

104 mins | Adventure, Fantasy | 7 August 1963

Director:

Don Chaffey

Producer:

Charles H. Schneer

Cinematographer:

Wilkie Cooper

Editor:

Maurice Rootes

Production Designer:

Geoffrey Drake
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HISTORY

The working title of the film was Jason and the Golden Fleece. On 15 Mar 1961, the LAT reported that producer Charles H. Schneer was planning to make another visual effects spectacle using the “SuperDynamation” process (also referred to as “Dynamation” or “Dynamation 90”), which he and visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen had experimented with in three recent films, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958, see entry), The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960, see entry), and Mysterious Island (1961, see entry). The technique involved compositing live action and stop-motion animation sequences, giving the effect of human characters interacting with and battling imaginary, larger-than-life creatures and mythical beings.
       Harryhausen, who also served as associate producer on Jason and the Argonauts, was extensively involved prior to and during production, suggesting locations, assessing potential actors, and taking a directorial role on set. In a 19 Dec 2003 U.K. Guardian article (excerpted from his biography Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life published that same year), he recalled that he and Schneer initially wanted to film on location in Greece, but found the area too distressed and bleak. Various contemporary sources, including the 27 Jun 1961 and 21 Sep 1961 DV, suggested that cast and crew were also headed to Yugoslavia and Spain (including Mallorca), apparently unaware that filmmakers had decided to film entirely on coastal locations in Italy.
       A 22 Sep 1961 DV production chart indicated that principal photography would begin 26 Sep 1961, and a 27 Sep 1961 Var news brief confirmed that production was underway. The 12 Nov 1961 ... More Less

The working title of the film was Jason and the Golden Fleece. On 15 Mar 1961, the LAT reported that producer Charles H. Schneer was planning to make another visual effects spectacle using the “SuperDynamation” process (also referred to as “Dynamation” or “Dynamation 90”), which he and visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen had experimented with in three recent films, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958, see entry), The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960, see entry), and Mysterious Island (1961, see entry). The technique involved compositing live action and stop-motion animation sequences, giving the effect of human characters interacting with and battling imaginary, larger-than-life creatures and mythical beings.
       Harryhausen, who also served as associate producer on Jason and the Argonauts, was extensively involved prior to and during production, suggesting locations, assessing potential actors, and taking a directorial role on set. In a 19 Dec 2003 U.K. Guardian article (excerpted from his biography Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life published that same year), he recalled that he and Schneer initially wanted to film on location in Greece, but found the area too distressed and bleak. Various contemporary sources, including the 27 Jun 1961 and 21 Sep 1961 DV, suggested that cast and crew were also headed to Yugoslavia and Spain (including Mallorca), apparently unaware that filmmakers had decided to film entirely on coastal locations in Italy.
       A 22 Sep 1961 DV production chart indicated that principal photography would begin 26 Sep 1961, and a 27 Sep 1961 Var news brief confirmed that production was underway. The 12 Nov 1961 NYT published an account of production activities in Palinuro, Italy, noting that the “rockribbed coastlines, sweeping seascapes, and golden beaches” were suitably “authentic” to the classical Greek legend. Some Palinurian men were recruited to appear as extras in the film, while others ferried members of the film company to and from the “Argo,” the $250,000 prop ship on which many scenes took place. A 3 Dec 1961 LAT article indicated a total budget of $3.5 million.
       Principal photography was finished by Feb 1962, according to a 28 Feb 1962 Var column in which Schneer anticipated a summer 1963 release. The “hold-off” on release was due to the amount of time Harryhausen needed to complete visual effects work. Var noted, however, that neither Schneer nor distributor Columbia Pictures were keen to publicize the painstaking nature of Harryhausen’s work, since that might alert moviegoers to the “gimmick” of what they would eventually see on screen.
       In his biography, Harryhausen stated that he began making and painting model “bodies” in Feb 1962. The film contains five significant Dynamation sequences: the Argonauts’ encounter with the menacing “Talos,” a 100-foot-tall bronze statue who has come to life; the torment of the prophet “Phineas” by the bat-like creatures known as the Harpies; the rescue of the Argo by the benevolent merman “Triton”; “Jason’s” battle with the Hydra, a seven-headed monster; and the climactic fight scene between Jason and the Argonauts and seven skeleton warriors. Stop-motion photography and effects processing took place at Shepperton Studios in England. The skeleton sequence took four-and-a-months to complete, and according to Harryhausen, some days were spent “producing less than one second of screen time.” Regardless of the hard work involved, he claimed that, “Of all the films I have been connected with, [Jason and the Argonauts] continues to please me most.”
       A 28 Nov 1962 Var report on international film activities indicated that the visual effects work was complete. Three months later, a 1 Mar 1963 DV brief announced that the title had officially been changed to Jason and the Argonauts. Prior to the picture’s theatrical release, DV published a generally favorable review on 5 Jun 1963, commending the authentic mythological landscapes and ingenuous special effects animation. However, the day after the 7 Aug 1963 opening at Loew’s State Theatre in New York City, the NYT panned the “absurd adventure,” describing it as “no worse, but certainly no better, than most of its kind.” Over the years, Jason and the Argonauts became a beloved cult classic, and in 1992, Harryhausen was recognized by AMPAS for his technological contributions to the film industry, receiving the Gordon E. Sawyer Award at the Academy Awards ceremony that year. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
27 Jun 1961
p. 5.
Daily Variety
30 Jun 1961
p. 15.
Daily Variety
21 Sep 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1961.
---
Daily Variety
1 Mar 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
5 Jun 1963
p. 3, 8.
Guardian (U.K.)
19 Dec 2003.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Mar 1961
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
3 Dec 1961
Section H, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
18 Dec 1992
Section F, p. 30.
New York Times
12 Nov 1961
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
8 Aug 1963
p. 19.
Variety
27 Sep 1961
p. 22.
Variety
28 Feb 1962
p. 3.
Variety
28 Nov 1962
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures Corporation Presents
A Charles H. Schneer Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Prod exec
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
MUSIC
Conducting The Royal Philarmonic Orchestra
VISUAL EFFECTS
Creator of spec visual eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
Unit mgr
Title des
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Jason and the Golden Fleece
Release Date:
7 August 1963
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 7 Aug 1963; Los Angeles opening: 14 Aug 1963
Production Date:
began 26 Sep 1961
Copyright Claimant:
Morningside Worldwide Pictures
Copyright Date:
1 May 1963
Copyright Number:
LP25630
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
Eastman Color by Pathé
Duration(in mins):
104
Countries:
United Kingdom, Italy, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
20139
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On Mount Olympus, Zeus and Hera witness Pelias' murder of his half-brother, King Aeson of Thessaly, and the maturation of Aeson's son, Jason. To overcome his nephew's assertion of right to the throne, Pelias sends Jason on a treacherous journey, the quest for the Golden Fleece. Undeterred by danger, the youth immediately sets sail in the Argo with a crew of close friends. En route to Colchis, site of their prize, the Argonauts surmount diverse obstacles, braving the attacks of a colossal bronze Talos, rescuing the prophet Phineas from the Harpies, and escaping death, through Hera's intervention, between the Symplegades. Despite the opposition of Colchis' King Aeëtes, to whom Jason's purpose is betrayed by Pelias' son Acastus, Jason, guided by Aeëtes' daughter Medea, kills the seven-headed Hydra guarding the Golden Fleece and vanquishes a skeletal army sown by Aeëtes from the monster's teeth. The Argonauts then return to Thessaly, bearing on board both Medea and the Golden ... +


On Mount Olympus, Zeus and Hera witness Pelias' murder of his half-brother, King Aeson of Thessaly, and the maturation of Aeson's son, Jason. To overcome his nephew's assertion of right to the throne, Pelias sends Jason on a treacherous journey, the quest for the Golden Fleece. Undeterred by danger, the youth immediately sets sail in the Argo with a crew of close friends. En route to Colchis, site of their prize, the Argonauts surmount diverse obstacles, braving the attacks of a colossal bronze Talos, rescuing the prophet Phineas from the Harpies, and escaping death, through Hera's intervention, between the Symplegades. Despite the opposition of Colchis' King Aeëtes, to whom Jason's purpose is betrayed by Pelias' son Acastus, Jason, guided by Aeëtes' daughter Medea, kills the seven-headed Hydra guarding the Golden Fleece and vanquishes a skeletal army sown by Aeëtes from the monster's teeth. The Argonauts then return to Thessaly, bearing on board both Medea and the Golden Fleece. +

GENRE
Genres:


Subject

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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