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BENEATH THE 12-MILE REEF

For Hicksflicks.com, Feb. 21, 2014

Riddle me this: Why does the Fox Archive manufacture-on-demand label continually release wide, CinemaScope features in pan-and-scan formats, ruining the effect of the aspect ratio that set the standard for big-screen projection in the early 1950s?

I wrote about this awhile back when "April Love" was released, a film that makes great use of CinemaScope for horseracing sequences that are sadly lacking in the Fox Archive release.

The same goes for several other films on the label, and that's ironic for two reasons: 1) Fox developed CinemaScope and released the "The Robe," the first contemporary widescreen movie, which set the standard for the 1950s and beyond; 2) Most of the titles released by Fox Archive show the original poster art on the DVD box, with the big, bold, colorful imprint: "CinemaScope."

                     

     The boxes say "CinemaScope," but these two films are pan-and-scan.

Anyway, once in awhile a title comes along that is released in its original CinemaScope aspect ratio, and the latest is "Beneath the 12-Mile Reef," a film that's been on DVD for years in various public-domain prints that are faded, full of skips and pops, have lousy sound or other problems.

The new Fox Archive disc is the first official release and the color, sound and gorgeous widescreen vistas are intact and fabulous.

The film itself is a fairly routine Romeo and Juliet-type story of young lovers (Robert Wagner, Terry Moore) keeping their romance secret from their families because they operate competing businesses.

But what really makes the film click are two things, the gorgeous location filming of Key West (the cinematography was nominated for an Oscar, losing to "Shane"), where the families are sponge fishermen, and the lush score by Bernard Herrmann.

If this movie doesn't make you want to head to Florida this summer, you haven't been paying attention.