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Put Your Hydra in my Ray Harryhausen… aka Jason and the Argonauts!

A charming threesome

There will be a boat with a talking figurehead that looks like a drag queen. It will be manned by muscley and sweaty Greek men that resemble fit Portland dudes. And they will go on the hunt of a lifetime, to find the most magical garment in all the land… the Golden Fleece. Besides looking good with almost any type of sandal, it has miracle powers. It holds the power to restore your lost kingdom. You just have to defeat a horde of Ray Harryhausen’s claymation monsters.   

I know, going to the Gap is an easier way to find fleece, but it just doesn’t have that rewarding “quest” feeling.

Jason and the Argonauts, made in 1963, is based on the Greek Myth of Jason. When I was a young lad, I was very fond of Greek and Roman Mythology. So much of it has been adapted for film and literature, the ties of these stories to our current culture is undeniable. People who study mythology, like Joseph Campbell, will tell you that all of these great stories in bibles, mythological text, and even urban legends repeat and reoccur in cultures that are very different from one another.

It was either Greece or Portland...

Our pop culture interpretations of Greek Myths are usually tame in comparison with the gore and cruelty of the originals. Jason and the Argonauts is no exception, it’s a 1960’s adventure ride with lots of claymation skeletons. It’s camp, and I’m crazy about it.

So, Jason’s uncle has stolen the throne from his father. Pelius is told that someday, a one sandaled man will be the ruin of him. Pelius attempts to kill Jason, but Jason escapes… and is raised by a centaur scholar. Hmm.. How Hogwarts-tastic! Jason comes of age, and returns to claim his throne, helped by the goddess Hera (wife of Zeus). She changes herself into an old woman, and in helping her cross a stream, Jason loses his sandal. By the way, I’m a little put off by a prophecy dedicated to improper footwear. I mean, if the throne belongs to a one shoed man, why didn’t any bum off the street show up with one shoe, and say, “Here I am. Crown me king! Where’s the bidet?”

I think I saw this giant brass Adonis at pride...

Alright, so Pelius says, sure, you can rule, if you bring me the Golden Fleece that’s on the other side of the world. Jason’s like, “No biggie, I’ll get right on the P-daddy.” Off Jason runs to find the perfect crew for the Argo, and Hera tells him that she’ll help, but only 5 times.

The crew is full of legends, the most famous being Heracles, also known as Hercules, in Roman myth. Man, those Romans. Did they think they were clever? You have to be more witty about name changes when you steal a religion. Yeah, hey everybody! I’ve got this awesome new religion that revolves around this guy named… Cheesus Feist. He was um… nailed to a large wooden capital T. There was also a bush burning on a mountain, and this guy, Noses, took 10 gynocological notes referring to her condition. Let it be known, the first pap smear has a lot to teach us about divine will.

Go Poseidon, god of the sea! Cliff moving trumps pilates!

On the journey, Jason and the Argonauts meet a crazy number of claymation monsters. One of the first, is a giant bronze warrior statue they awake by stealing forbidden treasure. The special effects are really amazing. There was a time when these effects blew people away. Now, we like to write them off as cheesy, and low tech. It takes countless hours to shoot stop motion video. It’s one of the most tedious and challenging things you can do in film. A man named Ray Harryhausen did the effects for this film. He also did The Three Worlds of Gulliver, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and Clash of the Titans. He was a pioneer in his field, and we wouldn’t have the more believable special effects that exist today without him. I got to meet him in a cult movie store in Louisville Kentucky once. It was a nerdy moment of ecstasy.

Why is the fleece in a tree? Did the sheep leap into it and get stuck?

So, the greased up Grecians dance around with swords for a while. The fighting choreography looks more like something that happens at CC Slaughters on a Friday night, but that isn’t a bad thing. Plus, a few of these sailors seem more like snarky queer boys than seamen. (ahem) I LOVE it! There’s a lot of man love in this movie, and the drag queen attached to the ship that gives them advice sorta seals the deal for me.

It's the 20 minute long skeleton fight! The movie could have been called, Skeleton Fight... and some other stuff.

They reach the land of the Fleece, and Jason falls in love with a local priestess, aided by Aphrodite. She leads him to the nest of a Hydra (a many headed lizard). Many headed lizard… The Hydra’s animation is impressive… much more so than the schizophrenic spaz-out Jason performs to kill it.

I recommend all the movies Harryhausen has produced. Like me, you might find yourself rooting for the claymation Medusa instead of the hero.

 

Perhaps the sequel could be, “The Search for the Golden Snuggie”?

Click up on in HERE to go to a youtube account that has this movie, and a couple others Ray worked on in their entirety.

The Fleece is tinsel? Miracle tinsel? Christmas in July?

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