In 1963 the world was captivated by the delightful, dramatic stop-motion technique found in many movies of the decade. Don Chaffey’s 1963 version of Jason and the Argonauts was one that caught the attention of millions.
With its terrifying harpies and hydras, clashing rocks, the beautiful Medea and of course, the all important Golden Fleece, this tale is set to keep you interested throughout. Of course, no Hollywood blockbuster is complete without a few deviations from the original mythology. There are some chronological differences with Talos being defeated on the way to the Golden Fleece rather than on the long journey home. The god Triton (wonderfully depicted as a mermaid) makes a big feature as well, holding the Clashing Rocks back from crushing the terrified Argonauts to death – in the original myth it is the blinded King Phineas who tells Jason to release a dove before entering the Clashing Rocks to avoid its imminent dangers. I have always felt that, even with its deviations from Classical myth, it is still a story the Ancients would have been proud of with its colourful visuals, quick pace and constant action.
This is the movie that began to stoke the fire of my love for Classics. As a young girl my father put this movie on the television with the intent to show me one of his favourites – little did he know he started me on my journey through the Ancient World. I was in awe of the stop motion techniques of Ray Harryhausen that brought the harpies, Talos and skeletons to life; mythology really did seem like magic when portrayed on the screen.
With all of this in mind and following the success of our previous screenings of Gladiator and Monty Python’s Life of Brian, CANI were incredibly excited to host their third annual movie screening of Jason and the Argonauts in the Ulster Museum, who CANI would like to thank once more for its willingness to host our events. With a fascinating and insightful introduction by CANI’s own Katerina Kolotourou (and after some deliberation at how to move a large curtain away from blocking the screen), an enthralled audience sat back and for an hour and 44 minutes watched in admiration as Hera and the gods on Mount Olympus aided Jason and his companions in their quest.
Speaking to a few people after the performance, I received nothing but positive opinions for the screening. There appeared to be ample debate after the showing with some viewers telling me that seeing Jason and the Argonauts playing on a larger screen for the first time, really served to bring the movie and the Classical myth it derives from, even more alive. The setting of the Golden Fleece became even more mysterious and magical as its golden wool seemed to glitter that much brighter. The hydra was a big favourite as well; showing its fierce hissing and jabbing on the big screen only served to heighten the fear it produces.
Overall I can say with confidence that this was a wonderful event for all involved. It can be said that Classics (and the enthusiasm for Classics) is very much alive not just in the traditional sense, but even from the modern viewpoint where big budget productions bring these tales into the eyes and hearts of all who watch them. This was the third movie event for CANI and hopefully there will be many more to come.