7 November 2008 | Bunuel1976
BENEATH THE 12-MILE REEF (Robert D. Webb, 1953) **1/2
To begin with, I recall watching this as a Sunday matinée on Italian TV as a kid. Though one of the very first Cinemascope outings, its copyright was somehow not renewed by Fox when it was due and, consequently, it fell into the dreaded Public Domain; that said, the copy I acquired as part of a 2-disc 4-movie "Pirates"(!) set was surprisingly in Widescreen, even if the image itself proved overly soft.
Unfortunately, the narrative's unusual background of sponge-fishing (treated in some detail but emerging to be more dreary than absorbing, despite nice Oscar-nominated underwater photography) is put in the service of a clichéd Romeo & Juliet storyline. In fact, while I usually lap up such vintage Hollywood adventure films, this one was constantly undermined by a cornball script (amazingly penned by noir expert A.I. Bezzerides!) in which Robert Wagner, decked-out with an unbecoming hairdo, is seen immaturely flaunting his Adonis features every so often (the virile nature of such earthy people is always at the fore in this type of film!)
while it takes some serious suspension of disbelief to accept a man of such obvious Latin tinge as Gilbert Roland in the part of a Greek!
Slightly overlong for its purpose, the film is nonetheless redeemed by a strong cast (which also includes petite Terry Moore as Wagner's love interest, Richard Boone her father, Peter Graves the man she jilted, and J. Carroll Naish as Roland's brother/associate a role not too far removed from his CLASH BY NIGHT  characterization), an excellent score by the great Bernard Herrmann (which seems kind of wasted on such trivial fare, though it didn't prevent the film from being presented at Cannes where that year's jury numbered Luis Bunuel among its members and Jean Cocteau as president!!) and the requisite underwater struggle with a squid (also featured during this era in the likes of REAP THE WILD WIND  and TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA ).
For the record, I followed this oater with two other more satisfying titles from director Webb WHITE FEATHER  and THE PROUD ONES  both Westerns I had acquired some time back through an acquaintance of my father's but which I hadn't yet gotten around to checking out until now