Beneath the 12-Mile
Reef (Limited Edition CD Soundtrack)
When widescreen filmmaking kicked in as the Hollywood
studios reacted to TV, the question was how to shoot the films
composition. One of the less examined
factors, besides sound going stereophonic, is how should composers change their
approach to scoring such films. One of
the first to answer was the legendary Bernard Herrmann. Unlike many composers for film, Herrmann had
a background in radio, and that definitely helped him when listening to Beneath
the 12-Mile Reef (1953).
Though he was recording for the first time in true stereo,
Herrmann did not allow that to affect his judgment in making the music for this
film. This came out in the first year
of CinemaScope, one of only five films released that way in the format's first
year, and this may be the most influential.
The music is imaginative, clever, and seems to have figured in most of
the underwater films that come to mind the most. It is immediately striking how this score has the feel of future
scores by John Barry (Thunderball, You Only Live Twice), James
Horner (The Abyss), and John Williams (Star Wars – The Phantom Menace)
insofar as a well-structured wonderment of the ocean is involved. By going for several; harps for underwater
pieces, Herrmann is taking the stereotypical signifier for underwater and
turning in on its head by powerfully running with it. This is countered with the subtle use of other instruments that conjure
suspense, darkness, and otherworldliness that makes this music that rises above
its film and actually makes it a better film.
This is the kind of music that keeps you watching a poorer
film, simply because it is so good and then you want to see what will happen
next, where you would not otherwise. It
is also a reminder of what digital animation cannot keep an audience doing, no
matter how much money is spent on them.
Its influence may be that it is one of the first genre films of its type
(action/adventure) to be in scope, so composers and filmmakers would naturally
want to aspire to the largesque of it.
The sound on the CD is not bad, in stereo, but there are
problems throughout due to “wow” and other occurrent distortions. As of now, this cannot be corrected, but it
is fair to say that most of the time when it does not do this, the listener can
really get into the music. In one
respect, it even feels like as score for a silent film, trying to convey ideas
that put the viewing experience into another dimension. Films are supposed to take us places we had
never been before, and this picture was one of them, no matter how much of a
B-movie it was. Herrmann helped further
that, as he would for many genre films to come.
This is a rare chance to get Herrmann’s own version of his
score, especially since this CD is limited to 3,000 copies, from the magazine Film
Score Monthly. This soundtrack can
be ordered exclusively at www.filmscoremonthly.com
among many other soundtrack exclusives, many of which you can read about on
- Nicholas Sheffo