One of the things I liked about growing up in Baltimore in the 1970s was that many of the local movie theaters regularly showed older classic films in addition to first-run features. Consequently, I had the benefit of seeing lots of great motion pictures on the big screen that had been released years before I was born. One of the ones I most vividly recall was 1963's Jason and the Argonauts, a movie that I now connect not just with my childhood but also with Dungeons & Dragons.
There are a lot of reasons why this is so, starting with the basic premise of the film (and the Greek myth on which it's based): an adventurer gathers together a band of other adventurers to set off to an unknown land in search of a treasure with which he hopes to reclaim the kingdom usurped from his father when he was a baby. But it's the dangers Jason and his Argonauts face that make me think most of D&D. There's Talos ("called a triple iron golem" in the Dungeon Masters Guide and illustrated by Dave Sutherland in the Monster Manual), the hydra, the harpies, and of course the "children of the teeth," skeleton warriors used by King Aeëtes of Colchis to try and stop Jason from escape with the Golden Fleece. Those skeletons made a huge impression on me as a kid, as I suspect they did on Gary Gygax. If you check out the nifty skeletons available from Otherworld Miniatures, you'll see that some of them bear shields that are identical to those from Jason and the Argonauts.
Ray Harryhausen was my patron saint as a boy. I ate up all the movies on which he worked, like this one and the various Sinbad films, all of which I saw in theaters during the 70s. Remember that this was in an era before VCRs where readily available and well before there was a huge library of old films available for viewing by later generations. I don't know if my experience in seeing these movies as they were meant to be seen was unique, but I consider myself lucky for having had that opportunity, because my imagination was informed not just by the works of my own time but by those of the generations before me. Maybe that's why, even though I'm younger than the earliest generation of gamers, I still feel like I have a kinship with them. D&D never felt "old fashioned" to me, but perfectly in line with the conception of fantasy I've held since a very young age -- and still do.
I bought a copy of Jason and the Argonauts on DVD this weekend and watched it with my nine year-old daughter. She's got a love for mythologies of all sorts and plays in my weekly Dwimmermount campaign. She's still a little young to quite get into the game on the same level as my friends, but she's a quick learner and I feel a certain obligation to accommodate young people who take an interest in what might otherwise seem a very esoteric hobby. My daughter was a bit frightened of the harpies at first, but she otherwise enjoyed the movie a lot, particularly the hydra. She also took special interest in all the scenes on Mount Olympus, but then, when Honor Blackman is playing Hera, I can't say I blame her. I'll probably try and acquire copies of the Sinbad movies too and watch them with her in the coming weeks. I see no reason why my children should be deprived of the "classical education" I received when I was their age.