Review: Beneath the 12-Mile Reef
3.5 / 5 Stars
I will admit to have never heard Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, even though I had heard plenty about the score. I finally got a chance to see the film, and have to say that Bernard Herrmann's moody score fit the film perfectly. It is a classic example of film music done right. It enhanced the film without overbearing it, and the result was a highly enjoyable experience (even though the film itself is a little higher on the melodrama than it should have been).
Beginning with triumphant brass and harps (all nine of them!) over the 20th Century Fox CinemaScope logo (sans Newman's classic fanfare), Herrmann's score immediately heralds an exciting adventure about to unfold on the screen. The next track uses the underwater motif. A dark brooding theme, it is classic Herrmann, and runs in the same vein as some of his earlier scores with similarly dark orchestrating (Citizen Kane, The Day the Earth Stood Still). Herrmann's approach to the score is highly thematic, with themes for almost every major sequence and situation. There's the love theme, the triumphant adventurous main theme, and the dark and brooding underwater theme, to mention a few.
It is interesting to note that when I saw the film, I felt that Herrmann's score was flirtatious during a particular scene that involved, well, flirting. Imagine my surprise when I received the soundtrack album, and noticed that that very track is called "Flirtation"! Herrmann never was one for long track titles. The key dominating instrument in the score is the harp. Using nine of them was a masterstroke, and it adds a world of depth and beauty to the score, thus mirroring the groundbreaking underwater cinematography on screen.
It's talked about briefly in the liner notes, but I want to reiterate here that the simple fact that this was a CinemaScope underwater film in 1953 (before the invention of scuba gear) is truly astounding. Herrmann's score isn't all dreamy harps and triumphant themes, though. There are a few action cues here, including "The Fire" and "The Octopus". It's nothing we haven't heard before from Herrmann, but it's still great to hear it.
Unlike most of their other releases, there are no bonus cues on this Film Score Monthly release, which runs about 55-minutes long. The sound quality is mixed, considering the aged source, but sounds rather good. There was a slight defect in the master tapes, but it's hardly noticeable, and not worth worrying too much about. The album is a great example of Herrmann's skills and abilities, and is a must have for any serious soundtrack aficionado. It's available exclusively at http://www.filmscoremonthly.com/
If any information appears to be missing from this page, contact us and let us know!