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  • 2 rival groups of divers , a Greek family and the Conch family compete for sponge fishing beds off the Florida coast. But the the son , Robert Wagner, and the youngest daughter, Terry Moore, fall in love and both of whom replay Romeo and Juliet in Tarpon Springs Florida . As quarrells emerge between two families , Montagues and Capulets lookalike . Then , some thieves rob the valuable sponges and the Greek family decide to go fishing at the risked 12-mile reef.

    This swimsuit love story results to be a plain , simple and lightweight entertainment with good actors and passable direction. It has thrills , fights , romance , constant quarrelling and a lot of diving . Being well worth watching for the notable Technicolor cinematography in CinemaScope by cameraman Edward Cronjager , the magnificent musical score by the great composer Bernard Herrmann , Hitchcock ordinary , adequate production design from Lyle Wheeler and George Patrick , as well as the young and extremely attractive protagonist duo . Starred by the beefcake and charming Robert Wagner ; by the time Wagner played a lot of adventure, Western and Wartime movies such as: The silver whip , The mountain , Prince Valiant , Broken lance , The white feather, Stopover Tokyo, , In love and war ,Between heaven and hell . It is best remembered thanks to gorgeous and incredibly young Terry Moore , stunningly shown in a bathing suit . Along with a long plethora of prestigious secondaries such as : Gilbert Roland, Richard Boone , Peter Graves , Harry Carey Jr , J. Carroll Naish Angelica Clark , Jay Novello , among others . And as narrator shows up Rock Hudson . The highlights of the movie are the impressive underwater scenes when Robert Wagner scrapping with an octopus and a fierce sea fight at the climax of the film in which Robert Wagner and Peter Graves battle each other surrounded by the ocean kelp that threatens to strangle them . It contains a thrilling and lively soundtrack by Herrmann providing a classic and sensitive score . Extraordinarily photographed in the Florida coastline filled with reef , keys and sea animals: guppy, urchin, carp , blowfish , carp , ray , shark , clownfish , goldfish , cleaner fish and other reef fish , all of them enhanced thanks to big screen , being one of the early CinemaScope pictures . The motion picture was lavishly produced by Robert Bassler and uncredited the powerful producer Daryl F Zanuck , being professionally directed by Robert D Webb . He was a fine craftsman and expert professional . At the beginning Webb worked as a director assistant , producer and subsequently filmmaker . He made all kinds of genres as Western : White feather, The proud ones, The jackals ; Adventures : Pirates of Tortuga , Seven cities of gold, The way of gold ; Noir : The Cape town affair ,The spider , The Caribbean mystery ; Warlike: The Glory brigade, 7 women from hell and Scifi: On the threshold of space. Although he also made documentary and TV episodes as Daniel Boone and Temple Huston series . Rating : 5.5/10 . Enjoyable family fare that will appeal to adventure fans . Well worth seeing .
  • Directed by Robert D. Webb and released in 1953, this saga of competing sea sponge divers was noted for its drop-dead gorgeous cinematography and a brilliant score by composer Bernard Herrmann--and these remain the great assets of the film to this day.

    The story is pure melodrama given an exotic twist. The Petrakis and Rhys families earn their livings by diving for sea sponges, but when the Rhys family, led by father Thomas (Richard Boone) resort to dirty tricks the Petrakis family, led by father Mike (Gilbert Roland) are forced to resort to risky dives at the dangerous 'Twelve Mile' reef; at the same time a love affair between son Tony Petrakis (Robert Wagner) and daughter Gwyneth Rhys (Terry Moore) further complicate the rivalry. Needless to say, tragedy results.

    Both Wagner and Moore were considered rising stars when the film was made, and although Wagner makes for an unconvincing Greek both give enjoyable performances as the star-crossed lovers caught Romeo and Juliet fashion between battling families. Even so, the acting honors here go to Gilbert Roland and Richard Boone as the warring fathers with a special nod to Peter Graves as Arnold, an overly aggressive Rhys diver. Several notable character actors, including J. Carroll Nash, Jay Novello, and Harry Carey Jr. round out the cast.

    Although the cast is solid, the plot is more than a little predictable--but the chief thing is the photography and the score. REEF was among the earliest productions made in Cinemascope, and everyone concerned was determined to make it as visually attractive as possible. The result is some truly beautiful cinematography, particularly in reference to the film's many underwater scenes. The score by Bernard Herrmann, who would later be best known for his work on such Hitchcock films as VERTIGO, also captures the beauty of the sea to remarkable effect.

    Unfortunately, REEF seems to have fallen into public domain, and there are numerous DVD and VHS releases on the market. In most cases they are abominable things: the cinemascope has been reduced to pan and scan, the colors are muddy, and the sound is poor. There are, however, at least a few available that give you some idea of what all the 1953 fuss was about. Although they are hardly renowned for the quality of their product, the Digiview Productions release is actually quite good; the Digital Gold release is also more than respectable.

    Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
  • I remember this movie from the old NBC Saturday/Monday NIGHT AT THE MOVIES from the early 60's! Of course watching it in black and white, fullscreen and on a small TV is not the way to view this.

    I wrote this review to defend Robert Wagner's performance. Am I the only one to get he's playing a Greek American; not an old school Greek from the old country? He's not going to have the accent or mannerisms of his father...he's American!!! I also like that Tony (Wagner) was depicted for what he was...a man-child. His father (Gilbert Roland) steps in when he feels Tony is in over his head going up against bully Arnold (Peter Graves).

    It also displays a love story that develops..not like today's movies where people hop in bed, then calm down and try to figure out if they even like each other. And Terry Moore is lovely as Tony's love interest Gwyneth.

    Of course the Cinematography, Stereo, Wide Screen format and great Bernard Herrmann are superb and add to the overall effect. J. Carroll Naish, Richard Boone and Harry Carey, Jr. lend capable support.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The world beneath the sea is beautiful and dangerous... and the 12-Mile Reef was too dangerous and too beautiful... The deep you go, the more beautiful it was...

    The title referred to the areas in which sponge divers ply their harvest frequently at the possibility of loosing their life... Their sponges vary greatly in shape, size and color... The more prized were found in the deep of the 12-Mile Reef... The sponge was valued for its size, woolly texture and irregular surface...

    The film begins in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico off the West Coast of Florida where two families and two cultures are fighting for existence, and two kids are falling in love...

    Tony (Robert Wagner) is a happy good-humored young Greek, honest, brave and noble... He wins the heart of Gwyneth and conquers by love her strong tough father...

    Gilbert Roland, the father of Tony, is a strong Greek character ready to fight Peter Graves in any style... But he is a human being scared to death when he dives in the deep waters of the reef...

    Terry Moore is the soft heart kid fascinated by the handsome Greek...

    Richard Boone is the tough fisherman dedicated with his two sons to ambush and to steal the gatherings of others...

    Peter Graves, star of the popular TV Series "Mission Impossible" much later, is the heavy fellow of the picture who beats Tony for conquering his love... He burns also his old boat and takes his valuable sponges...

    "Beneath the 12-Mile Reef" is Fox's second CinemaScope production after "The Robe."

    Shot on location in Key West and Tapon Springs, Florida, the film is enjoyable and cheerful, with breathtaking underwater photography, mysteriously frightening music, and menacing attack of an octopus...
  • There are some films that can't be labeled as classics, but they have a good story and are generally entertaining. I would say this one falls into that category. Don't look for great acting. If you can imagine Robert Wagner as an ebullient young Greek, then you'll know what I mean. The story centers on some fishing families in coastal Florida and competition to get a good harvest of sponges. Most areas have been over-harvested and to get a good haul, father and son Mike and Tony Petrakis (Roland and Wagner) are forced to go to the 12-mile reef, a dangerous place where divers might slip off the reef and get the bends when they come back up. In the meantime, Tony falls for the non-Greek daughter (Moore) of a rival fishing family who stole their sponges from them. The cinematography, in Cinemascope, is attractive as is the music score, a treat for both eyes and ears. When the divers are in the water, composer Bernard Herrmann really whips it up, with harps and everything. While no masterpiece, "Reef" is, for me, satisfying.
  • An average movie overall, this is helped along quite a bit by its atmosphere, which makes a relatively creative setting work pretty well. The actual story consists entirely of very well-worn ideas, but they work all right because the setting and scenery give the story some extra life. The cast also has a couple of bright spots, and aside from being somewhat too long, it's a solid feature for its genre.

    The story has a community of Greek sponge fishermen on the Florida coast facing intimidation, prejudice, and economic competition, with a budding cross-cultural romance that has the potential either to ease the tensions or to cause worse conflicts. A young Robert Wagner plays the main character, and while his performance is rather one-dimensional, he easily makes his presence felt. Peter Graves is his antagonist, with Terry Moore as the love interest.

    Probably the best performance is given by Gilbert Roland, who plays Wagner's father. His character is a cocky but knowledgeable veteran of his trade, who is forced to take ever greater risks to provide for his family.

    The atmosphere is helped by the color photography and by a lot of good detail in most of the various settings. For much of the movie, you are constantly reminded of the seaside setting and of the ways that it drives the characters and the action. All this helps the familiar story idea to take on a little more interest.
  • bkoganbing21 January 2011
    Although I would not want to minimize the dangers of deep sea diving which were even more before the invention of scuba gear, the idea that sponge diving is the most dangerous profession in the world as Rock Hudson's narration tells us is a bit much. Yet it's the underwater scenes in Beneath The 12 Mile Reef that hold the audiences attention. On the surface it's your average soap opera about two young people who get together despite the objections of the father of one of them.

    Robert Wagner is the boy and Terry Moore the girl. Wagner is the son of Gilbert Roland and Angela Clarke and Wagner and Roland are sponge divers, a trade brought over from the old country. They've settled in Florida and continue to work, but when they try to dive in another area Wagner and Roland find that it's been staked out by Richard Boone and his family who is protective of their turf in general and don't like the Greeks that have settled there. Moore's got a nasty boyfriend in Peter Graves, but she sure likes what she sees in Wagner who isn't named Adonis Petrakis for nothing. He certainly was a lovely sight for the teenage girls back in 1953.

    Beneath The 12 Mile Reef got an Oscar nomination for best color cinematography in 1953 but lost to Shane at the ceremony. It's because of those underwater sequences which still hold up well today.

    This film also gives you one of the very few opportunities to see Harry Carey, Jr. in a non-western film, playing one of Terry Moore's brothers. Peter Graves just does not cut it as a villain, except in Stalag 17 where his all American personality is what makes him the surprise informant. And J. Carrol Naish, Hollywood's all purpose ethnic plays a sidekick role to Wagner and Roland. I'm sorry Roland was not in the film all the way, he's a favorite player of mine, but his death scene is a frightening one and the best in the film out of the sea.

    Beneath The 12 Mile Reef is an average romantic soap opera with some really good color cinematography in the ocean depths. Would the players had a better story to go with the scenery.
  • it was nice to find out the stunt man in the water was my father nick karakos of tarpin springs Florida. it was nice to notice some of the buildings in the movie was at tarpin springs when i was 17 years old. i did notice that in the movie the word tarpin was mention 2x and every time the diver would go into the water a notation of word (Greek) was stated. when i visit my father back when i was 17 years old they would call him Greek. it was a nice movie to watch and i had a understanding of the plot. you can tell they showed some of the Greek life that was made living down in Florida. i don,t know if they still have the sponge diver boat they would give people tours and show how they would pull up spouges. overall i would give this movie a 6.
  • Robert Webb directs this terrific underwater adventure. Two families of different ethnic background rival for sponges in the Gulf of Mexico off the west coast of Florida. One family of Greek decent is led by Mike Petrakis(Gilbert Roland)and his son Tony(Robert Wagner). Their efforts of diving for valuable sponges are thwarted by Thomas Rhys(Richard Boone)and his team of divers. Arnold(Peter Graves)is the aggressive diver that leads raids on the Petrakis sponge hauls as well as competes with young Tony for the affection of Gwyneth Rhys(Terry Moore). Highlights are Wagner fighting with an octopus; Moore in a swimsuit; and the great underwater scenes. Notice Wagner's dyed black hair. In supporting roles are two veteran actors J. Carrol Naish and Jay Novello. It is said this is the third movie filmed in Cinemascope. It garnered critical acclaim for the breakthrough underwater cinematography.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film is so old it's available in "bargain" DVDs, but it was quite compelling visually when it first came out. The story was an excuse for the underwater photography in widescreen, which was often quite striking.

    Spoilers in following: The story's Tarpon Springs settings were authentic to the time, and of course, our young hero wins the Cross Toss, a yearly tradition. This was supposed to bring him a year's good luck, but the following events were a mixed lot, including the death of his father.

    All of the tragedies that follow force our young hero to tackle the 12-mile reef, an area most sponge fishermen considered too dangerous. This, of course, enables us to see more underwater scenery.

    The sponge-diving sequence is authentic. I visited Tarpon Springs, where I saw the activity in detail on a tour.

    A light film, but okay.
  • 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 [1952] 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 [1942] and TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA [1954]).

    For the record, I followed this oater with two other more satisfying titles from director Webb – WHITE FEATHER [1955] and THE PROUD ONES [1956] – 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
  • Robert Wagner (as Tony Petrakis) and Terry Moore (as Gwyneth Rhys) are an attractive couple; and, the color cinematography is lovely in "Beneath the 12-Mile Reef". Gilbert Roland (as Mike Petrakis) heads up an entertaining supporting cast. Mr. Wagner's hair is darkened to appear more Greek (but his on-screen sister's locks are spared). Ms. Moore is fetching. Still, Edward Cronjager (photographer) and Bernard Herrmann (musician) are director Robert Webb's most valuable players. The film helped put Wagner on the map; he won a "Photoplay Gold Medal" as filmdom's best new actor; moreover, he and Moore easily made Martin Quigley's Annual Top 10 "Stars of Tomorrow" list for 1953.

    ***** Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (12/2/53) Robert D. Webb ~ Robert Wagner, Terry Moore, Gilbert Roland
  • This is a film you can view over and over again, a great 1953 film with a great cast of GIANTS in the film industry with great acting by Gilbert Roland, J. Carrol Nash, Terry Moore( was married to the late Howard Hughes), Richard Boone and Peter Graves. Enjoyed the film location of Tarpon Springs, Fla., along the Sponge Docks where the Greeks have a historical heritage. Robert Wagner was just starting out in the film business and becoming a super star for the early 1950's and beyond, and his dark hair in this picture changed his appearance, however, his voice gives him away. There is lots of innocent 1950's love scenes and plenty of drama and excitement to keep you in your seats. This is a wonderful film Classic for all generations to view and enjoy over and over again!
  • My Dad was stationed in the navy in key west and he and my Mom lived in the half of the house that the indoor fight scene took place in. It was a preachers house and they shared the kitchen with my Mom and Dad. They had to eat box lunches during filming. I am told some of the actors and actress played with me, I was a baby at the time. They actually took the shutters and hung them crooked for the movie. If memory serves me right the house is on 124 union street. Parts of the film were shot on the navy base and parts of the movie were shot in Tarpon Springs. So of course when I found it on DVD I had to get copies for everyone. I even had to buy my dad a DVD player so he could watch it. Considering it was a movie filmed with 1953 technology it is a good movie.
  • All in all, the 90-minutes amounts to a better movie than its near 5-plus user rating. The plot's no brain twister- Greek sponge divers compete with Anglo counterparts off the coast of Florida. That could be a tricky ethnic premise but it's nicely finessed Romeo and Juliet style.

    There's no way early TV could compete with this Cinemascope panorama. The beautifully colorized ocean sights are stunning, while the murky underwater presents a good contrast. Not surprisingly, studios hoped this kind of visual wonder would induce couch potatoes back into theatres. Then too, it's no wonder Wagner's career took off with this showing, even though he's coiffed in unlikely black curly hair. Happily, the young actor proves both spirited and likable in the central role of the Greek son working to equal his dad's (Roland) leadership skills. Roland too amounts to a riveting screen presence, while a face-off between him and Anglo leader Richard Boone would have shaken the rafters. Anyway, I had my hopes. And catch that "lifeline" sending air to the diver. It looks awfully meager given the many hazards below. No wonder Wagner's Tony says he's terrified every time he goes under. I'll keep that in mind next time I use a kitchen sponge.

    A number of these folks went on to stellar careers, including Peter Graves who gets to practice his fistic skills. No, there's little in this A-production to call memorable. But for a non-rainy evening, it's an enduring slice of movie entertainment.
  • This is a story which was written by A.I.Bezzerides and directed by Robert D. Webb. It tells the story of two rival families who live off the Florida coast. Although related by origin, they separate themselves by the ethnic families. First is a Father and son team, Mike Petrakis and his son played by Gilbert Roland and Robert Wagner. Their rival family and Sponge divers as well is Richard Boone, the patriarch and his son, played by none other than Peter Graves as Arnold. Both families work hard at diving in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, for their precious cargo of Sponges. The only area where they both dare not venture is "The Twelve Mile Reef. " Although the reef and nearby waters are too dangerous to dive into, the area is claimed by Boone and his family. Not hampered by superstition, Wagner and his father chance the dangerous waters, when tragedy strikes which leads to confrontation between the families. Their blood feud escalates when Boone's daughter favors Wagner which leads to theft and arson. The movie is beautiful with it's panorama of the sea and it's majestic underwater cinematography. The action is slow to develop, but the dialog keeps it's pace. The actors are top grade and the movie captures enough physical action to make this not only a great film but moves itself into the Classic category. It is enhanced with the additional cast members such as Terry Moore, Gwyneth Rhys, Angela Clarke, Jay Novello and Jacques Aubuchon as Demetrios Sofotes. A great story from a great time and one recommended to all audiences. ****
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If you like your Westerns underwater you'll probably go for this one. It's even got a cast of veteran Western actors with the presence of Gilbert Roland and Richard Boone on hand. They portray rival sponge divers in the Gulf Coast waters of Florida, with offspring (Robert Wagner and Terry Moore) destined to fall in love as the story progresses.

    What you have to do here is overlook a number of inconsistencies in the story, including those involving the mechanics of the human body. While Roland's character Mike Petrakis dies from the ill effects of surfacing too quickly from a tragic dive, son Tony (Wagner) engages in a similar dive later in the story, is brought to the surface even more quickly, and never even gets a single spasm. As for how he got away from that octopus, you just have to take it on faith.

    The relationships of the characters also didn't seem to remain consistent. Case in point was bully Arnold (Peter Graves) beating up on Tony because girlfriend Gwyneth (Terry Moore) was falling for the younger guy, but simply taking it in stride by the end of the picture when the two hook up for good. Sure, Tony saved his life, but the hunky dory feeling between the two just didn't square with me.

    What I really couldn't wrap my head around was the price these sponges brought when hauled back into shore - twenty two thousand dollars for a boat load! In 1953!?!? Maybe I'm missing something here; there must have been some basis for those numbers but it just doesn't compute with me.

    Most reviewers here cite the underwater photography as cutting edge, however what I saw, though competent enough, was not that spectacular. Filming in color would have been something new for the era, but everything I saw in the print I just viewed was pretty much shades of blue, and rather washed out at that. I guess I'm sounding a fairly negative note here with my review which I don't mean to be. The story is an OK one offering a venue you don't get to see too often. It's worth a single viewing to catch the young Robert Wagner in an early starring role.

    Other than that, my best takeaway from the picture was the sign in the seaside restaurant where a number of scenes took place - 'You hook em, We cook em'. Sounds like a plan to me.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This rather simple-minded 1950s story of the conflict between Greek and English sponge divers on Florida's west coast has a couple of good things going for it.

    One is Bernard Hermann's stirring score, alternately romantic and seagoing.

    Another is the way the director and photographer have captured the colorful industry of small-scale diving among all the tiny islands and turquoise inlets around Key West and Tarpon Springs. You have to love those beat-up old boats and the primitive diving equipment with the guy in the rubber suit and goofy helmet trudging along the sandy floor and scooping up the valuable sponges. Alas, all gone today. The sponge you're using in the kitchen is some kind of synthetic polymer or something.

    Another is the ethnic stereotyping which, for a change, gives the story an added kick. The English (or "conchs") may be sullen, ruthless, and greedy -- led as they are by the growling Richard Boone and his bully son, Peter Graves. But -- by Saint Demetrios -- the Greeks are a lot of fun. Like all peasants in all movies that have a peasant community, they eat, drink, dance, work, and sing with gusto. (It may have helped that the story was written by somebody named Bezzerides.) They have their ritual tests of strength among the men, all ending with laughs and back slaps. And they are great lovers too. Gilbert Roland returns from a few weeks sponging, takes his wife aside, and murmurs to her, "When we are alone, I give you big hello, eh?" She smiles and blushes.

    But that sort of thing can get you into a world of trouble. Gilbert Roland is Hollywood's idoneous Mediterranean. He's been everything. But it's a bit of a surprise to see Robert Wagner as a curly-haired ebullient young Greek kid, spreading his arms and declaiming, "Hey, I'm a very beautiful young man!" (If anyone had told me when I first saw this that R.J. would wind up as my supporting player years later, I -- well, I wouldn't have believed it.) Wagner and his teen-aged conch girl friend, Terry Moore, are unusually well directed by Robert D. Webb, who never did anything else of note. I mean, "Seven Women From Hell"? Yet he's able to take a perfectly ordinary, if well-written, scene of flirtation between Wagner and Moore in a beach-side palm grove, and add some genuinely inventive touches. And not just that one scene. When Roland has a fight with Peter Graves, then sits on his chest and humiliates him by making him eat a cigar, you can feel Graves' fury as he snarls and shakes his head, trying to spit out the tobacco shreds.

    Then, too, there is Terry Moore. She's powerful cute for a conch. She winds up in one of those aquamarine estuaries alone with Wagner on his sponge boat. She wears a tiny pink blouse and tight white shorts. They dive overboard and swim together. It's the equal of Julia Adams in the Black Lagoon.

    Several scenes of adventure and suspense add to the film's impact. For what it is -- or what it could have been -- a routine story of conflict over dumb cellular colonies in Florida -- it's not at all bad.
  • I saw this film on NBC's "Saturday Night at the Movies" in the middle 1960s, and I loved it. It has a great cast, a great music score by Bernard Herrmann, and a great story.

    Be sure to watch it in "letterbox", if you can. The Cinemascope composition is important to the the story -- and the stereo sound is wonderful. But you'll enjoy it in "full screen" and monaural, too, if that's the only way you can see it.
  • 1953 was a really wet year for Wagner. First he did "Titanic" and then this! Here he's a Greek sponge fisherman who trolls the Gulf of Mexico with his father Roland. They are in heavy debt and feel that the only way they can get the quantity of sponges they need is to dive at the title location. However, Wagner's brother already died trying to collect sponges there. Also, there are conch fishermen who heavily resent the Greek sponge divers and a "Romeo & Juliet" vibe takes over this film once Wagner falls for the daughter of a leading conch collector (Boone.) The daughter (Moore) is close to being engaged to conch fisherman Graves, but once she gets a load of toothy, tan, curly-haired Wagner, she can barely give Graves the time of day. This only fuels the already raging hatred between "the Greeks and the Conchs" and several violent and criminal acts follow. Meanwhile, Wagner and Moore run off together and dive for food in a lagoon (where inexplicably and magically, Moore's white clam-diggers become shorts and then clam-diggers again!), then sew a ripped sail back together and go to meet Wagner's stereotypical Greek mother (Clarke) who basically wears shawls, frets over the men and cooks a lot. Moore's shirt (which she swam in previously) is ironed and pristine, but she trades it in for one of Wagner's sister's ungodly gingham concoctions just in time for Clarke to say how pretty she is. The whole thing is pat, trite and silly, despite the sometimes heavy goings-on and the flourish-filled, pounding score by Bernard Herrman. It's beautiful music, but far too powerful for a paper-thin story like this. The chief assets are the cast of once and future stars (most of whom went on to much better things) and the lush scenery and colorful underwater photography. Debits would have to include the soggy, clichéd script and the amateurish acting of Wagner. He is cute, but is in way over his (incredibly bushy) head during the more dramatic sequences. Moore gives a physically zealous performance, rarely standing still, even in romantic moments. Roland is solid, but isn't around a whole lot. Boone (who at 36 was playing the father of a 32 year-old!) is also good, but isn't given very much to do. The film seems overpopulated with unnecessary characters, some of whom barely have a thing to say or do (Boone's son Williams, Wagner's sister Gordon.) There is a noticeable lack of close-ups in the Cinemascope production which tends to lessen the intimacy between the characters. Perhaps, at this stage, it was feared to get too close to the actors on such a huge canvas. It's an easy, attractive time-killer, but without any dramatic power and spoiled somewhat by ludicrous elements, not the least of which is the ridiculous ending.
  • I am a Floridian who doesn't live all that far from Tarpon Springs...the small town in which "Beneath the 12-Mile Reef" was set. Even today, it's big claim to fame is their sponge diving trade. And, when you see the youths jump into the harbor to recover the crucifix tossed into the water, well, that's a tradition the Greek Orthodox community still celebrates to this day. It's a lot more touristy today and if you visit the quaint little shops, you'll notice many sell copies of this film.

    According to this story, the quality of the sponges the divers are retrieving has declined and the 12-Mile Reef is a piece of virgin territory where the sponges still are abundant. Naturally, it's tougher and more dangerous to go there...and some of it is because thieves and/or folks claiming the waters are theirs sometimes set upon the boats and steal their harvests.

    While I really wanted to love "Beneath the 12-Mile Reef", I felt very ambivalent about it after seeing it. The film was okay...just a time-passer and apart from nice nice local scenery and underwater shots, the story just never impresses nor does it annoy.

    By the way, some scenes were filmed in the Keys as well as the Bahamas. I assume they were picked mostly because the water is far clearer there and much better for underwater shots. I've scuba dove the areas and know that there's a huge difference in the clarity of these waters.
  • Not-bad early Cinemascope feature from Fox about two warring families in the Gulf of Mexico vying for underwater sponges, with the daughter of the Conchs falling in love with the son of the Greeks. Melodramatic plot is full of illogical stretches (every time the law gets involved, the characters suddenly clam up), and the acting is both mercurial and stilted, with Greek diver and family man Gilbert Roland coming up from the sea like a pouty Prima Donna. There's a great deal of talk about the treacherous 12-mile reef looking so beautiful you never want to surface again, but mostly the Oscar-nominated underwater photography is flat and inexpressive (matching many of the performances). A youthful Robert Wagner plays Roland's son, rail-thin and with a crop of black curly hair; he tangles with an octopus at one point, yet poacher Peter Graves seems a far more formidable villain. Biggest surprise in the cast is Richard Boone as the patriarch of the Conchs; subdued, and with a lazy smile, this may be the most benign Boone has ever been on the screen--which causes one to ask, whose side is he on? **1/2 from ****
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A week after viewing this odd little film, its impressions linger.

    I enjoyed my first excursion into the obscure world of sponge fishing. The photography here dazzles, be it of underwater canyons of reef and reed, or sunsets over the West Florida coast.

    Here we meet Robert Wagner in his first starring role -- as impetuous Tony, a wasp-waisted teen itching to prove his manhood, and a swain in the throes of first love. It's an impressive debut.

    Supposedly this story has a grain of truth. There really is a large community of Greek seamen in the Tarpon Springs area of Florida. The cultural and religious rites that we observe -- i.e., bare-chested boys competing for a cross that a prelate has tossed into the bay -- indeed are quaint. I wouldn't be surprised if these ceremonies survive.

    However, the conch-vs.-Greek dynamic is derivative -- "West Side Story" without the great tunes? -- and for me, it got old. What sense does it make for Tony to pursue Gwyneth (Terry Moore), when her father's crew has just robbed him blind? And Gwynnie laughs about it.

    Still, the swarthy Mexican actor Gilbert Roland does particularly well here as Tony's dad, a man as deft with his fists as his group psychology. I admired the way he confronted the thieves: "This time you win, next time we win. What's the difference, eh?" A lesson in creative conflict resolution for us all! But for such a savvy man of the sea to die in the way we does cheapens this production. The audience gets its sop, but at a price.

    Despite its flaws, this movie is worth a dive. Bring goggles!
  • About 25 years after I first saw this film in the mid 1950's, I bought "The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann". It was one of the recordings of the music of the great film music composers conducted by Charles Gerhardt.

    This was back when vinyl still ruled and was at the beginning of my love affair with movie soundtracks, an addiction really, but not one likely to lead to cancer or holding up service stations.

    The record included a 10-minute suite of music from "Beneath the 12-Mile Reef". I must admit when I first saw the movie aged about 9, I hadn't singled out the music from the overall experience, but now I found it captivating.

    Among other instruments, Herrmann employed no less than 9 shimmering harps. Old Bernard could deliver an impression of the sea to rival Debussy (his score for "The Ghost and Mrs Muir" is another testimony to that).

    But not everyone is going to watch a movie just for the soundtrack, although it's interesting how many reviewers on IMDb noted it. Along with a look at a fascinating niche of American culture, great location work and superb photography, Hermann's music elevated this film above its familiar love story.

    It's Romeo and Juliet transferred to 1950's Florida with the Capulets and Montagues replaced with the Petrakis's and the Rhys's, rival crews of Greek-American and Anglo-American sponge-divers. There were not too many real Greeks in the Petrakis' crew, however Robert Wagner as Tony Petrakis looked the part with curly black hair, and Gilbert Roland as his dad proved, along with Anthony Quinn as "Zorba", that Mexicans made passable Greeks.

    On the other side of the bay, a pre-"Have Gun Will Travel" Richard Boone as the head of the Rhys clan delivered his unique brand of gravitas.

    A couple of years after this film was released, Greeks and sponge-diving cropped up again in "Boy on a Dolphin", another showcase for Fox's CinemaScope starring Alan Ladd and Sophia Loren. It also had a stunning soundtrack by Hugo Friedhofer. For these films, Hermann and Friedhofer composed two of the most sumptuous scores of the 1950s.
  • A Greek family dives the reefs off Florida for sponges, and they clash with a group of crooks doing the same thing. 23 year old Robert Wagner is Tony, son of Mike (Gilbert Roland) in the Petrakis family. Lots of diving shots, lots of religious ceremony. Long, drawn out scenes... swimming underwater, or climbing the mast to place a wreath, but the director kind of flubs the big scene, where they place the wreath at the very top of the mast. Somewhat confusing... the music doesn't always match with what's going on in the film; it's overly ominous when they are swimming, and overly amusing when there's trouble brewing. And 32 year old Peter Graves is another "sponger", chasing after Gwyneth (Terry Moore). Apparently narrated by Rock Hudson, a couple years before being nominated for "Giant". They toss the word "Greek" around thrughout the film.. sometimes an insult, sometimes it's said with pride. Clearly a clash of the classes film... singling out and insulting an ethnic group. Of course, the anglo's girlfriend flirts with the Greek, and then the real trouble begins. According to the trivia, there are (at least) two versions.. the longer 20th Century Fox version, and all the others. the "Film Detective" channel has the longer version, which includes a scene not in the shorter one. Directed by Robert Webb (directed Love me Tender, a couple years later). It's uneven, but pretty good.
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