I still remember being twelve years old and walking home after seeing Ray Harryhausen’s movie Jason and the Argonauts. I was absolutely exhilarated. While Harryhausen’s style of stop action animation seems primitive compared with today’s CGI effects, it was state of the art at the time, and I realized that movies could show me things I’d never see in real life.
I just found out this year that there was a text version, rather than an oral tradition, so I ordered Jason and the Golden Fleece (the Argonautica) by Apollonius of Rhodes. It’s a pretty dry read, but I was surprised how much of the story found its way into the 1963 movie.
The catalog of Greek heroes, for instance, who joined the voyage, shows up in both the movie and book. So are the giant statue Talos (who attacks the ship), the Harpies who plague the prophet Phineas, the clashing rocks (held apart by Athena in the book, Poseidon in the movie), the giant serpent guarding the fleece (a Hydra in the movie), and the army that springs from the ground when the serpent’s teeth are planted (skeletons in the movie).
Harryhausen and nominal director Don Chaffey rearrange many of the scenes and omit others all together. Medea‘s role gets reduced to that of babe in skimpy outfit and she deserves better. While I can’t in good conscience recommend the book (which lacks the Bernard Herrmann score, among other things), the movie still gives me a thrill.