Beneath The Twelve Mile Reef/Herrmann
April 15, 2015
The Sea Garden
A couple of awards should be given to “Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef,” a film starring Robert Wagner, Gilbert Roland, Richard Boone, Peter Graves and Terry Moore. The first is the best soundtrack written for the worst film. The other is the only soundtrack to feature nine harps in the score which makes it one of my favorite Herrmann soundtracks. It was one of the earlier CinemaScope efforts from Fox and the underwater sequences must have been nice to see on the wide screen along with the harp music which added to the danger and mystery of the reef. The story is about two sponge boats who are establishing territorial areas and the one place both are reluctant to go to which is the twelve mile reef. Of course the daughter of one of the boats falls in love with a young boy from the other side which ignites the situation even more. Directed by Robert Webb whose claim to fame was he directed Elvis Presley’s first film “Love Me Tender.”
“The Prelude” sets the stage for the film as the background is a water scene with a beautiful sunset. It is a bright with trumpets playing the melody against upbeat harp chords. A second theme somewhat romantic very brief is introduced but one that you’ll hear again throughout the soundtrack. “The Undersea” gives us our first offering of the underwater music that is the basis for other tracks. It’s background is a sponge diver in the murky depths with dark morbid strings and the harps playing a prominent roll somewhat synchronized to the slow movements of the diver as he gathers sponges. Whether this was the first film to use this idea of the harp as an underwater association I’m not sure but since this film it has been used often. Keeping in mind that part of this film is underwater ( director of photography Edward Cronjager was nominated for Oscar) this style of music was used, enhancing what you see on the screen. “The Boat” begins with a melody soft in nature with the harp and segues into a third theme, romantic in nature that you’ll again. “The Homecoming” returns to the main title theme as the boat docks and the crew is greeted by family. “The Glades” paint a different picture as it begins with the softer version of the main title changing into a somewhat dissonant passage. “Flirtation” is a nice track which begins in a very playful manner and ends up on a romantic note. “The Quiet Sea” makes use of the second theme from the main title. In “The Undersea Forest” you’ll hear a great example of how the harps and the lower strings and woodwinds play together, one complementing the other. The lower strings have a lumbering effect mimicking the slow movement of the diver. “Elegy” a slow sad movement which is lead by the oboe. The strings play very sadly but the music has a tribute to the death of Tony. Few can write as sorrowful as Herrmann and the short “Sorrow” shows that with oboe as it plays out a variation of the main title in a minor key. I’m including “The Sea Garden” as an audio track which will give you a good idea how the underwater sound was created.
As far as audio quality is concerned this soundtrack while recorded in three track stereo has not stood the test of time very well. There is some wow and flutter and some of it suffers from overall muddiness. Let’s just call this an archival recording. There is little difference between the FSM and this recording other than there were some tracks combined on the FSM. This soundtrack is really a study in how underscore material should be written. Each track assumes one of the themes created by Herrmann and it is used in a different way depending upon what you’re watching on the screen and I found myself listening to the music and not watching the film. Remember I said that this wasn’t a very good film. I consider this to be a top 100 recording and a must have in you’re collection. If you don’t have it get it before this small limited edition is sold out.