Friday, January 29, 2010

FAMW: Beneath the 12-Mile Reef

Earlier this month, we featured “Mad Movies with the LA Connection” for the weekly Whimsy. Well, there's much, much more. As we said before, there was a standard opening for this show, and the first clip is what it looked like. Check out the clothes and the hair; like the 70s, only less embarrassing. Our host interviews Carrie Moore, one of the stars from the movie being lampooned, namely “Beneath the 12-Mile Reef” also starring Robert Wagner, Peter Graves, Richard Boone, and Gilbert Roland. This was originally a 1953 American adventure film directed by Robert Webb, with screenplay by A I Bezzerides.

It was supposedly inspired by William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Here's the plot I stole from Wikipedia: Mike and Tony Petrakis are Greek American father and son sponge diving entrepreneurs who find themselves in competition with the Rhys family, WASP fishermen who are prepared to resort to violence and even murder to maintain their established fishing grounds off the Gulf Coast of Florida. Run-ins between the two clans lead to an exchange of threats and all-out brawls. Further complications ensue when Tony Petrakis meets Gwyneth Rhys, and the two fall in love.

This film was also the third motion picture produced in what was called “Cinemascope” (after "The Robe" and "How to Marry a Millionaire"). This was a method of producing a panoramic image to make it seem more lifelike, as if you were actually there in the middle of the action while eating popcorn and making out with your girlfriend. It was soon made obsolete by “Panavision.” Sometime between then and now, all the “full screen” movies you bought on DVD were replaced by “wide screen” versions. So you had to go out and buy a new television set with a wider screen just to avoid those lame black bands above and below the action.

Now you know where it all began.

A review from the New York Times was not encouraging: “Another and further extension of the range of CinemaScope ... is handsomely manifested in Beneath the 12-Mile Reef ... But that, when you come right down to it, is just about the only novelty provided by this third employment of the anamorphic lens. For the scenes shot above the surface, while large and imposing, are routine, and the drama developed in the screen play is hackneyed and banal. And, unfortunately, most of the picture takes place above, not below, the reef ... There is nothing at all fascinating or edifying here. Variety was kinder in its assessment, sort of: “In handling the young cast, Robert D Webb's direction is less effective, particularly in the case of Robert Wagner and Terry Moore. Both are likable, so the shallowness of their performances is no serious handicap to the entertainment.

Obviously there was room for improvement, which came a generation later, in the form which you see here, for our Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

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