Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Jason has been prophesied to take the throne of Thessaly. When he saves Pelias from drowning, but does not recognize him as the man who had earlier killed his father, Pelias tells Jason to travel to Colchis to find the Golden Fleece. Jason follows his advice and assembles a sailing crew of the finest men in Greece, including Hercules. They are under the protection of Hera, queen of the gods. Their voyage is replete with battles against harpies, a giant bronze Talos, a hydra, and an animated skeleton army, all brought to life by the special effects wizardry of Ray Harryhausen.
After a 20 year voyage, Jason (Armstrong) returns to the Kingdom of Thessaly to claim his throne. But it's not quite easy for this. In order to gain the throne, he must find the magical Golden Fleece, which has amazing healing powers. He selects a crew, which included Polydeuces (Crawford) and Hercules (Green). Jason also gains the help of the Queen of the Gods, Hera (Blackman). Jason and his crew must now reach the fleece and survive the likes of a 100 foot bronze giant, a huge venomous creature with head full of seven snakes, and a terrifying army of skeletons.
The legendary Greek hero leads a team of intrepid adventurers in a perilous quest for the legendary Golden Fleece.
- Pelias (Douglas Wilmer) usurps the throne of Thessaly by killing King Aristo. However, there is a prophecy that he will be overthrown by a child of Aristo wearing one sandal. When he kills one of Aristo's daughters after she had sought and been granted the protection of Hera, Pelias makes an enemy of the goddess.
Twenty years later, Jason (Todd Armstrong), Aristo's son grown to manhood, saves the life of Pelias during a chance encounter, but loses a sandal doing so. He does not know that he has rescued his father's murderer, but Pelias recognizes his nemesis. Pelias keeps his identity secret. However, he cannot just kill Jason; the prophecy also says that he himself would die.
When he learns that Jason is undertaking a dangerous quest to obtain the fabled Golden Fleece to rally the people of Thessaly, Pelias encourages him, hoping that he will be killed in the attempt. Men from all over Greece compete for the honor of joining Jason. Since their ship is named the Argo after the ship's builder Argos (Laurence Naismith), they are dubbed the Argonauts. Among those chosen are Hercules (Nigel Green) and Acastus (Gary Raymond), the son of Pelias, who is sent by his father to sabotage the voyage.
Jason is taken to Mount Olympus by Hermes (Michael Gwynn) to speak to the gods Zeus (Niall MacGinnis) and Hera (Honor Blackman). Hera tells him that she wishes him well, but that Zeus has imposed restrictions on her assistance (Jason, like all mortals, is a piece in the game which the gods play against each other. This is an accurate portrayal of Greek theology and rarely found in any modern medium). Jason is told that he can only invoke Hera's aid five times (the same number of times his sister called on the goddess by name for help before she was slain). In response to Jason's unasked questions, Hera tells him to search for the Fleece in the land of Colchis, on the other side of the world.
Many dangers threaten the expedition. When the Argonauts run perilously low on supplies, Jason turns to Hera. She guides him to the Isle of Bronze, but warns him to take nothing but provisions. However, while chasing some goats, Hercules and his young friend Hylas (John Cairney) find a partially-open treasure chamber of the gods, surmounted by an enormous bronze statue of Talos. Despite Hylas' warning, Hercules steals an enormous brooch pin the size of a javelin. The statue comes to life and attacks, causing much mayhem before Jason can destroy it using Hera's advice. Hylas goes missing and is presumed dead, but the guilt-ridden Hercules refuses to leave until he knows for certain. The other Argonauts will not abandon Hercules, so Jason is forced to call on Hera for the last time. She confirms that Hylas is indeed dead and that Hercules is destined not to continue with them.
Hera also directs them to seek out Phineas (Patrick Troughton), the blind seer, for the way to Colchis. They find him tormented by two blue-skinned, bat-like Harpies sent by Zeus to punish him for misusing his gift of prophecy. In return for imprisoning the flying creatures, Phineas tells Jason what he needs to know and gives Jason his only possession, an amulet. To reach Colchis however, they must pass between the Clashing Rocks, a strait flanked by towering rock cliffs that shake and drop boulders to sink any ships attempting to pass between them. Fortunately for the Argonauts, they learn this second hand. Another ship tries to run the strait from the other direction and founders. In despair, Jason throws Phineas' gift into the water; the god Triton emerges and holds back the rocks long enough to let the Argo pass through. On the other side, they pick up three survivors of the other ship, including Medea (Nancy Kovack), the high priestess of the goddess Hecate.
They sight Colchis the next day. Acastus and Jason disagree on how to approach the King of Colchis. The argument escalates into a swordfight. Eventually Acastus is disarmed and jumps into the sea to escape. Believing him dead, Jason and his men accept an invitation from King Aeëtes (Jack Gwillim) to a feast, but once they are off guard, they are captured and imprisoned. Acastus has betrayed them, telling Aeëtes about their mission. However, Medea helps Jason and his men escape.
Acastus tries to steal the Fleece himself, but is fatally wounded by its guardian, the many-headed Hydra. Jason succeeds in killing the monster and taking the Fleece. But Aeëtes is not far behind. He strews the teeth of the Hydra on the ground and prays to Hecate. The planted teeth sprout out of the ground as armed skeletons who pursue and battle Jason and two of his men (in a famous four minute stop motion sequence that took special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen four and a half months to produce). Seeing that his companions have been slain, Jason escapes by jumping off a cliff into the sea.
The quest fulfilled, he, Medea and the surviving Argonauts start the return voyage to Thessaly.