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    Beneath the 12-Mile Reef DVD Review

    DVD Fox

    Jun 02 2014 01:36 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    20th Century Fox’s third Cinemascope release after the tremendous successes of The Robe and How to Marry a Millionaire was Robert D. Webb’s Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, a mediocre adventure tale that makes the most of its beautiful and atmospheric Florida location photography and its appealing cast. Without the religious epic feel of The Robe or the glittery female stars of Millionaire, this film had to lure in the customers on its scenic and underwater pleasures alone, and it worked. The film was a hit for Fox in its day (though naturally grossing less than the first two films).

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Fox
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 480P/MPEG-2
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
    • Audio: English 2.0 DD
    • Subtitles: None
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 42 Min.
    • Package Includes: DVD
    • Case Type: Amray case
    • Disc Type: DVD-R
    • Region: All
    • Release Date: 12/30/2013
    • MSRP: $19.99

    The Production Rating: 3/5

    Sponge divers Mike Petrakis (Gilbert Roland) and his son Tony (Robert Wagner) have decided that the areas where they dive aren’t yielding the impressive sponges that can be found in other areas of southern Florida. But the Glades area is monopolized by Thomas Rhys (Richard Boone) and his partner Arnold (Peter Graves), a fact brought forth painfully to Mike and Tony when their large haul from the Glades gets confiscated by the Rhys family and Arnold. So, Petrakis decides to dive at the 12-Mile Reef, a dangerous locale known for plentiful and quality sponges but harboring razor-sharp coral, tangles of kelp, and hazardous oceanic life and currents that could easily lead a man to his death. But Mike and Tony are so desperate to make a big score that they’re willing to take the risk.

    A.I. Bezzerides’ screenplay balances the fascinating and colorful undersea diving sequences with a tedious Romeo and Juliet/love triangle subplot that takes time away from the underwater explorations. This gives Robert Wagner as the continually grinning Tony a chance to flirt and fondle Rhys’ daughter played by Terry Moore. Their liaison is chemistry free (Moore was coming off an Oscar nomination the previous year for Come Back, Little Sheba so she gets second billing) and not particularly smoldering enough for the amount of time devoted to it. And the two opposing families, all hot and bothered by jealousy and misunderstandings, end their feud all too quickly for believability. Still, the film’s real substance is found in the diving sequences which, while not featuring the kind of crystal clear imagery found in Esther Williams’ water ballets (hers were mostly filmed in tanks rather than under the waters of Key West) still makes for the film’s best moments. The first dive at the reef is particularly fascinating in its different levels and with an array of marine life that’s continually captivating. The later sequence when Tony does his dive and is attacked by an octopus is so murky that the obvious danger of the situation gets a bit constricted by the viewer’s inability to see things clearly. The basic plot elements are handled in perfunctory fashion by director Richard Webb, but he does make sure to use that wide expanse of screen to optimum advantage capturing characters spanning the full width of the picture and shooting scenes in the Everglades with its unusual topography which divert the eye from the banal romantic scenes that take place there.

    Gilbert Roland is the most charismatic actor in the movie, strutting around as the Greek diving king and clearly a man in total control of his family and his business (until regrettably trying to beat the odds with his reef dive). Robert Wagner’s inexperience is painfully obvious in many of the scenes, and Terry Moore isn’t much better, the two of them engaging in initial flirting and then more serious romantic entanglements that just don’t have the ring of truth to them. Peter Graves is rather too stereotypically villainous as Tony’s rival in love and in business, but Richard Boone offers a more balanced performance as the senior Rhys. J. Carrol Naish is a most welcome sight as the elderly friend and partner of the Petrakis family.

    Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film’s 2.55:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this mostly beautiful transfer anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. This is the kind of transfer that the Warner Archives routinely offers for its widescreen MOD movies, but this is one of the few MOD offerings from the Fox Cinema Archives which gives the customer his money’s worth. Color is gloriously saturated and quite lush (reds and oranges in those sunsets are eye-opening), and the picture is quite sharp and mostly very appealing. Occasionally skin tones may get a bit overcooked (they are in Florida, of course), and there is an occasional scene that may seem a bit darker than it needed to be. But for the most part, black levels are fine, and only a bit of moiré in a striped shirt causes any notable motion artifacts in the picture. Why aren’t all of your Cinemascope offerings in your MOD program this resplendent, Fox? The film has been divided into chapters every ten minutes so there are 11 chapters present.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound mix is a well above average encode from the original audio stems. There is directionalized dialogue present and the speech is always easily understandable, and the Bernard Herrmann background score gets a beautiful rendering here. If the underwater effects sound a little tinny at times, that’s not likely a problem with the transfer but rather with the original Foley work. The audio level is a bit too loud, so one will likely need to decrease volume levels before beginning the film to prevent distortion.

    Special Features: 0/5

    There are no bonus features on this made-on-demand disc.

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    Beneath the 12-Mile Reef is the kind of quality presentation fans have been requesting from the Fox Cinema Archives program from the get-go. This encode could clearly have been a Blu-ray release instead of a made-on-demand DVD. Sadly, this effort has not been a sign of things to come as subsequent offerings from Fox in this series have not offered the same level of video quality as we have here. Fans of this film lucked out with this quality presentation.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
    Support HTF when you buy this title:


    "Why aren’t all of your Cinemascope offerings in your MOD program this resplendent, Fox?"


    Good question but, of course, no answer.

    I have noticed, often, when playing Fox MODs that the sound distorts and I don't have this problem currently with anyone else's product. I lower the volume, of course.


    I thought a Blu Ray had been planned but....


    We are still awaiting Disney's 20,0000 Leagues Under the Sea that was promised on Blu Ray some time back but nothing.

      • ljgranberry likes this

    "Why aren’t all of your Cinemascope offerings in your MOD program this resplendent, Fox?"


    Good question but, of course, no answer.


    I mean, it's obvious this title has been remastered. There isn't a speck of dust, no reel change cue marks, and it's an overall solid transfer. (One must think it had been readied for Blu-ray release, and then there was a change of heart.)


    Then, I think of the other wonderful CInemascope offerings in this MOD program which haven't been given this attention, and I just want to cry.

    I would be remiss if I let it go unsaid:  Cinematographer Edward Cronjager's glorious camerawork for this film earned him his seventh, and final, Oscar nomination.


    Herrmann's harp-laden score is legendary and glorious!