Plot: Mike (Gilbert Roland) is the leader of a sponge-fishing operation, but as of late, his catches have been sparse at best. As he needs to support his family and his crew, he makes a bold decision and sails into waters that are considered to be the territory of the local Conchs. Just as he expected, the sponge haul is remarkable and the profits would be substantial, but before he can even finish his dive, the Conchs arrive on the scene and exert their control of the area. Mike’s crew is forced to turn over the haul, as rival fisherman Thomas (Richard Boone) and his men threaten to cut the oxygen supply to Mike’s dive suit. Back on shore, tensions run hot, while one of Mike’s crew, Tony (Robert Wagner) passes the time by trying to spark a romance with Thomas’ daughter Gwyneth (Terry Moore). This causes tempers to raise and leads to some confrontations, but Mike is more concerned with landing a proper catch. But is he desperate enough to sail to the always treacherous 12-Mile Reef and if so, will his crew survive the certain to be dangerous journey?
Entertainment Value: If you’ve ever wanted to see Romeo & Juliet transplanted to the world of sponge-fishermen, then Beneath the 12-Mile Reef is the romance, yet rough and tumble adventure you’ve longed to experience. The forbidden romance is a central thread in this one, but there’s more to the story as well and the fisherman aspect isn’t just for background noise. The movie has a good amount of undersea footage and time spent out hunting the sponges, which culminates in a super fun scene that involves Robert Wagner dueling an octopus. I mean, you need to witness Wagner vs. an octopus, right? Wagner is one of the film’s highlights, with a strong performance both against sea creatures and in romantic banter with Terry Moore. The two show some solid chemistry here and given that there is a romance involved, that’s good news. The cast also features Gilbert Roland, Gloria Gordon, Harry Carey, Jr., and even Peter Graves, who gets a cigar stuffed in his mouth. The movie is a touch slow at times, but the beautiful visuals and solid performances help compensate, I think. One of the earliest CinemaScope movies, this one puts the widescreen potential to great use and showcases some wonderful natural views and undersea visuals. Come for the octopus fight, stay for the visuals and interesting narrative!
No nakedness. This one has a romance involved, but it is handled with taste and is more playful than intense. I love the banter between Wagner and Moore, but this is about sweet, not sexual. No blood. There’s some light violence at times, with some guys knocked around and of course, the octopus brawl, but it is minor and never graphic in the least. Unless you count the mass murder of the poor sponges, which are harvested in massive hauls. As for dialogue, there’s salty sea talk, tough guy talk, and some great back and forth between our sponge-crossed lovers. I love that first pursuit when Wagner tries to impress Moore, as the two have a great interplay and some nice lines come through as they banter about. Not a ton of big or wild lines, but this one is well written and has some fun stuff tucked in at times. On the craziness scale, we have an octopus fight and Peter Graves being fed a cigar, but otherwise, Beneath the 12-Mile Reef keeps things grounded and in check.
Overall Insanity: 1/10
The Disc: Twilight Time has issued this in a new HD widescreen presentation, one that boasts impressive colors and a clean, clear image. Fans of the movie have suffered through years of lackluster, chopped versions, so to have such a well detailed, vivid treatment is fantastic news. As for extras, the disc includes an isolated music track and a Biography episode focused on Robert Wagner. The latter is a terrific inclusion and is likely to appeal to fans of the movie itself.