Pelias has usurped the throne of Thessaly, killing King Aristo. But there is a prophecy that one of his children will avenge him, so Pelias seeks to put them to death. Hermes (Michael Gwynn), disguised as Pelias’s soothsayer, watches as Aristo’s son Jason (Todd Armstrong) is spirited away by a soldier. Pelias slays one of Aristo’s daughters in the temple of the Goddess Hera (Honor Blackman). Her temple profaned, she becomes Jason’s protector. She warns Pelias to beware of a man wearing one sandal.
Twenty years later, Jason saves Pelias from drowning in a river and Hera causes him to lose one sandal. Hearing that Jason intends to find the Golden Fleece, Pelias encourages it, thinking that Jason will be killed. Hermes takes Jason to Mount Olympus to speak with Zeus (Niall MacGinnis) and Hera, who can only help him five times. She sends him in the direction of far Colchis. The Argo is being built by Argos (Laurence Naismith), the great shipbuilder, and hopeful Argonauts appear from all over Greece, including Hercules (Nigel Green), Hylas (John Cairney), and Acastus (Gary Raymond), the son of Pelias sent to sabotage the mission.
Hera guides them to the Isle of Bronze. They are attacked by the towering statue of Talos, which destroys the ship and begins killing the crew. Jason is told to open the statues heel, which allows the life-giving liquid Ichor to flow out on the sand, and the statue crashes to earth, crushing and hiding Hylas. Hercules insists on remaining to find Hylas, as he feels guilty about stealing from a tomb and causing all the trouble. Hera says she has plans for Hercules anyway.
The blind steersman Phineus (Patrick Troughton) tells them how to reach Colchis after the heroes save him from the Harpies that torture him. First, they must pass through the clashing rocks. They watch another ship being sunk, then Jason throws his amulet of the god Triton into the water and Triton (Bill Gudgeon) rises up out of the water and holds the rock apart for the Argo to pass. They rescue Medea (Nancy Kovack), the High Priestess of Colchis.
Acastus challenges Jason to a duel and is defeated. Jason and his men accept an invitation from King Aeetes (Jack Gwillim) to a feast. As they insist on leaving with the Fleece, Aeetes imprisons them, but Medea has fallen for Jason and helps them escape. Acastus is killed trying to steal the Fleece first. Jason kills the Hydra and takes the Fleece. Pursuing the robbers, Aeetes sows the Hydra’s teeth and prays to Hecate. Seven armed skeletons arise from the earth. Jason, Phalerus (Andrew Faulds), and Castor (Fernando Poggi) battle them, as Argos escapes to the Argo with the Fleece. The Earthborn Men are defeated and all return triumphant. Jason gets the girl, Medea, but maybe later on he’s not so happy about it.
Bernard Herrmann scored not only this and most other Ray Harryhausen films, but The Day the Earth Stood Still and Journey to the Center of the Earth, not to mention Vertigo and Psycho. The background music for Talos is almost the same as that for Gort. A lot of the original story as laid down by Apollonius of Rhodes in the 3rd Century BC has been altered for the film, but I think no-one complains, because the movie is simply gorgeous and is considered Harryhausen’s best by most people, including him. The three-minute skeleton battle took four months to produce, at the rate of half a second of film a day. While the Argo was being filmed off the Italian coast, the movie Sir Francis Drake was being filmed nearby and the Golden Hind sailed into the shot. Producer Charles Schneer shouted, “Get that ship out of here. You’re in the wrong century.” On the shields of the skeletons are pictured creatures from other Ray Harryhausen movies.