JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS
Columbia TriStar Home Video deserves a rousing cheer for releasing Ray Harryhausens masterwork JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS ($30) on DVD. This release marks the first time that JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS has been made available in wide screen, which is reason enough for one to go out and purchase this DVD. After viewing this fine edition of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, all I can say is that Im hungry for more Ray Harryhausen on DVD. Harryhausens fans are certain to be clamoring for wide screen editions of FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH and EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS.
JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS is a wonderful adventure film whose story is adapted from Greek mythology. It is the tale of Jason, the rightful King of Thessaly, who was brought up in exile when his family was slaughtered by a usurper. To gain back his kingdom, the gods set Jason on a journey to the ends of the Earth where he will find the legendary Golden Fleece. With the goddess Hera as his protector, Jason assembles a crew of the strongest and bravest men in the world and sets sail upon the finest ship ever built. During the course of his journey, Jason must battle with Talos, a 100-foot man of bronze, the harpies, the seven-headed hydra and an army of skeletons. The cast of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS features Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond, Laurence Naismith, Niall MacGinnis, Michael Gwynn, Douglas Wilmer, Jack Gwyllim, Patrick Troughton, Nigel Green and Honor Blackman as Hera.
While the story is good, the most memorable sequences in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS are those brought to life by master special effects technician Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausens stop-motion animation defined state-of-the-art for several decades and inspired many of todays best special effects technicians. Perhaps JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS remains the most vividly remembered of Harryhausens films because of its legendary skeleton fight sequence. This sequence proved so inspiring that director Sam Raimi included his own humorous take on the skeleton fight in ARMY OF DARKNESS.
Columbia TriStar Home Video has made JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS available in both wide screen and full screen versions on opposite sides of the DVD. The full screen version is adequate and appears to come from the same transfer as the previous Laserdisc edition of the film. However, with the wide screen edition available, there is no need to ever look at the full screen version again. The wide screen presentation features the anamorphic enhancement and frames the film very close to a 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. At this ratio, the films compositions seem better balanced then they have ever looked. Also, the edges of the frame arent compromised as they were on previous editions of the film. The transfer itself is respectable, although there are some minor age limitations with the film element. JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS was produced in Eastmancolor, which lacked the lushness of Technicolor, but the transfer does manage to get good saturation from the film elements. The transfer is sharp and has good detail, however there are places where film grain is evident. Of course, problems with film grain are related to the limitations of the Eastmancolor film stock as well as the optical special effects technology of the early 1960s. Digital compression artifacts remained in check throughout the presentation.
The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack was fairly clean sounding and well worth amplifying for Bernard Herrmanns wonderful sword and sorcery score. Other soundtrack options include French and Spanish language tracks. Subtitles are available on the DVD in English, French and Spanish.
The interactive menus give one access to a theatrical trailer, plus a video interview with Ray Harryhausen hosted by director (and obvious fan) John Landis. JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS comes packaged in a new, easy opening keep case, which I liked. Also, Columbia TriStar included a stylish insert that sets this title apart from most other releases.
JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS is a minor film classic that belongs in most DVD collections. At the very least, Ray Harryhausens legion of fans will want to own the DVD. Recommended.
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