Jason And The Argonauts


This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General
Extras
Category Adventure/Fantasy Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1
Rating Other Trailer(s) None 
Year Released 1963 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 99:40 minutes Other Extras Featurette - The Harryhausen Chronicles (57 minutes)
Filmographies - Crew 
Interview - Ray Harryhausen (with John Landis) (11 minutes)
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (83:40)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Don Chaffey
Studio
Distributor

Columbia TriStar
Starring
Todd Armstrong
Nancy Kovack
Gary Raymond
Laurence Naismith 
RRP $34.95 Music  

 
 
Video
Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None 
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 2.0
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
French ( Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio ?1.85:1
Miscellaneous
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
German
French
Dutch
Spanish
Italian
Portuguese
Arabic
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Swedish
Turkish
Annoying Product Placement No

Plot Synopsis

    Spirited away from his home as a small child as his family is murdered, Jason (Todd Armstrong) is fated by the god Zeus to return one day kill the tyrant king Pileas in order to reclaim his birthright as king of Thesally. In order to reclaim that birthright and restore faith and pride to the kingdom, Jason decides to assemble the greatest warriors of Greece (the Argonauts) to accompany him on a journey to the end of the world on a quest for the fabled Golden Fleece.  In his path are a number of obstacles placed before him by the gods, which he must overcome with only minor help from the goddess Hera. During the journey he meets Medea (Nancy Kovack), high priestess of Culkea where the fleece resides, who ultimately helps him in the quest after she falls in love with Jason.

    For those of us raised on Saturday matinees, this is a familiar story, and one that to be honest is not especially original. But really this is not so much about the story, rather the famed effects work of the legendary Ray Harryhausen. Jason And The Argonauts was possibly his masterpiece and the fight with the skeleton army remains a benchmark in film effects. This film was a turning point in many ways for effects work in films, much as Star Wars: A New Hope was fifteen years later, and was an influence to many effects creators of the current era.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Given that this was made between 1961 and 1963, the overall quality of the video transfer is very good, indicating that Columbia TriStar have spent some time in restoring the original.

    The video transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    In general, the transfer is sharp apart from a few inevitable short sequences of softness, which is to be expected in a film of this age. Shadow detail was in general very good, which is an unexpected bonus. Because of the then limitations of the stop motion effects used throughout the film, the picture becomes decidedly grainier during sequences involving stop motion. Whilst it is very noticeable, especially during the fight with the skeleton army, it does not detract significantly from the film at all. This is definitely not a DVD mastering issue, but rather an inherent problem in the film highlighted by the sharpness of the transfer.

    Colours are in general consistently rendered, if a little muted. This is again a result of the original film rather than a mastering problem. There was one minor loss in colour at one point in the film (62:05) but this was far less than I expected in a film of this age.

    There were no MPEG artefacts seen and there were no apparent video artefacts. For a film of this age, there were less film artefacts than I was expecting and they really were not that intrusive either. The worst example occurs at 46:40 when the black lines briefly appear across the picture. I have seen far worse from much more recent films, and the film artefacts really should not concern too many people.

    The disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change at 83:40. Whilst it is noticeable, it is not especially disruptive to the film.

Audio

    This is at best an adequate soundtrack, with minimal remastering having been done to the original mono soundtrack.

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, all Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded: the default English soundtrack, plus French, German, Italian and Spanish. Since my foreign language skills are poor, I listened to the default English soundtrack.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times.

    There seemed to be some very minor audio sync problems earlier on in the film especially, but from my recollection this was a problem in the original film and therefore is not a mastering problem. It is unlikely to be bothersome to most people.

    The music score was very much a stock soundtrack for the time and did little to enhance the film at all.

    The surround channels were barely used and this seems to be mixed very much left and right channel only.

Extras

    For a film released in 1963, we have a very good selection of extras on hand.

Menu

    A fairly standard Columbia TriStar menu, lacking any animation or audio. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

   This is of reasonable quality only, presented in full frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is presented with a choice of German, French, Dutch, Spanish or Italian subtitles (which also apply to the interview and featurette).

Interview - Ray Harryhausen (with John Landis)

    This is an interesting enough 11 minute interview, done in chat style by John Landis, presented in full frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It gives a good insight into how Harryhausen created some of the effects work, and some of the pitfalls of coffee breaks or telephone calls!

Featurette - "The Harryhausen Chronicles" (narrated by Leonard Nimoy)

    This is a quite extensive 57 minute look at the work of Ray Harryhausen, with input from such names as Ray Bradbury and George Lucas, presented in full frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. For aficionados of film effects, this is a great summation of the development of the art by the legend himself. It shows how effects work developed across the films he did, from the original "Mighty Joe Young" through to the film that created Rachel Welch "1,000,000 Years B.C.".

Filmographies

    Interestingly, the filmographies relate purely to Ray Harryhausen and producer Charles H. Schneer. They are a little difficult to read being in a light black text on a greyish background.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Unless you desperately need a Pan & Scan version of the film, Region 4 is definitely the way to go.

Summary

    Overall, never one of the great films of all time but a legend in the area of effects work. A great reminder of those Saturday afternoon matinees when we lapped up this sort of stuff!

    For a film of its age , this is a very good video transfer.

    The audio quality is not especially noteworthy, but is adequate for a film of this age.

    A very good collection of extras that adds much to the overall pleasure of the disc.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris
29th August 1999

Review Equipment
   
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL