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Mike and Tony Petrakis are a Greek father and son team who dive for sponges off the coast of Florida. After they are robbed by crooks, Arnold and the Rhys brothers, Mike decides to take his men to the dangerous 12-mile reef to dive for more sponges. Mike suffers a fatal accident when he falls from the reef leaving Tony to carry on the business. But now he has a companion, Gwyneth Rhys. Written by
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.
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