The Giants of Thessaly (1960)

GiantsOfThessalyCoverThis Italian version of Jason And The Argonauts and Jason’s hunt for the golden fleece listed as badly as Jason’s boat did the during the first half hour of the film as he and I had to endure the whining of his traitorous crew. Just because there’s no food, the water is running out, and it’s becoming painfully obvious that Jason has led you on a wild goose chase, is no reason to behave like you’re from Crete.

If you’re familiar with the story of Jason and his Argonauts at all, you’ll no doubt be scratching your head trying to remember all the boring parts of that story that this movie seems intent on dramatizing. The first twenty minutes or so are the worst in this regard as it has to do with the Thessaly that Jason left behind in the scheming hands of his evil cousin, Adrasto. One look at this guy’s helmet-shaped perm and angular, dark beard should have tipped Jason off that Adrasto would find some excuse to move out of his bachelor pad and into the palace and the queen’s toga full time!

Jason can’t worry about that though because he’s busy having a ton of kick ass adventures! Like the one with the island of talking sheep! When this first developed I got a little concerned for the guys who were on shore leave from Jason’s ship since it wasn’t just food and water they had gone without for several months. What a relief then that the voices coming from the sheep were not those of any recently deflowered farm animals, but from the crew itself!

As you no doubt have guessed, this is all the doing of the evil witch who rules the island. Jason and the boys manage to escape and the next stop on their Classical Carnival Cruise is the island with the Cyclops!

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“Finally,” I was thinking as Jason and crew encountered the fleeing populace of the island, “we’re going to be getting into some monster action!” And Jason was of the same mind set because he was pretty much telling the yellow-bellied king to point him in the direction of this mindless beast. Down to the lair of the Cyclops we went!

Then I saw the Cyclops. I think that Jason showed us all why he was a legendary hero when he didn’t collapse in convulsions of laughter after laying eyes on the matted down bear costume some Italian stuntman was wearing. The head had these big ears and once its single eye opened up that dang thing’s pupil started flipping back and forth in its head. If the real Cyclops had an eye like that it would be so dizzy, it couldn’t get out of bed in the morning!

Jason shakes off the giggles long enough to get the gang to mount some half-assed offense against the creature who was surely suffering a bit of vertigo by now. Guys jumped on it, threw spears at it, lobbed torches in its direction, and even got grabbed and body slammed by it. Jason ends it all when he heaves a spear into its eye putting it out of its misery (we on the other hand would have to wait another half hour). The best thing about the Cyclops was that it had white snot running out of its nose! Somebody get that monster a hankie!

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With their two big adventures under their belt Jason and his crew head to the land where the Golden Fleece is being kept. As we were informed during a long, tedious voice-over at the beginning of the film that immediately confused me with all the ancient names being bandied about (did Jason really have a son named Theraflu?), Zeus gave Jason’s kingdom the Golden Fleece for some reason and then it got ripped off and now Zeus is going to destroy Thessaly with a bunch of volcanoes unless Jason goes and recovers it. Like most things our bosses tell us do in life, this makes little sense, but what are you going to do, right?

You would think that recovering the Golden Fleece would involve the biggest battle of them all, replete with an army of thousands, a legion of hideous soul demons, and wizards capable of rending the Earth from its very orbit. Nah. It just involved Jason climbing a big stone wall, then climbing a really big statue. The wall did collapse on him once for drama’s sake though. And he did have to make a ten foot jump from the statue’s head to its hand. Come on! You already got a Cyclops with a runny nose! Surely that was more than you were expecting!

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When they get back to Thessaly they get a warning that Jason’s cousin has taken over, so Jason figures they need some kind of plan because the only way to defeat Adrasto is take him by surprise. I was screaming for him to pull the old Trojan Fleece trick out, but Jason decides to surprise Adrasto by just showing up like nothing’s wrong. A horribly staged fight ensues that sees guys jumping and diving for no reason, other guys struggle to wave their swords convincingly at their opponents and Orpheus gasp out an Academy-Award-accpetance-speech-length monologue during his three hour death scene.

Director Riccardo Freda (The Witch’s Curse) shears the classic story of all the wrong elements, somehow deciding to concentrate alternately on the dull schemes of the evil cousin and the boring shipboard antics of Jason’s crew (a subplot involving a stowaway girl and her boyfriend is much ado about nothing and when they are put on trial by the crew, the only thing it succeeds in doing is making the crew look like unsympathetic clods).

More worryingly, this Jason doesn’t even remotely match up to the hunks that these all-male Italian sword and sandal tales have been known to feature. He’s just some scraggly blonde dude with messed up hair. I generally like my Hercules, Maciste, and/or Samson to have hair as pumped up and immobile as the rest of their puffed up bods! Even his beard delivered a hideous performance, resembling my lawn in November after a summer-long drought! Freda famously quit ten days into his directing stint on I Vampiri, a directing technique he surely should have employed here as well.

© 2015 MonsterHunter

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