The Original BJ wrote:Watching this version of King Kong last week, I found myself wondering, what is it about this material that has continued to excite filmmakers so much? It's not like the various incarnations provide much in the way of fresh takes, though at least Peter Jackson's was a genuine technical wow. Maybe the '76 film was in its time, but I have my doubts -- there's certainly nothing about the photography that's impressive on a craft level aside from scope.
Answer: no, the film was not seen as impressive, even technically. Its few Oscar nods were due to its positioning as a pre-sold blockbuster -- really the first of those we'd ever seen. And, even though the film wasn't even as big a commercial deal as anticipated, it got support from those parts of the Academy used to propping up the white elephants from the early 60s on.
The Original BJ wrote:It's also worth noting that Wexler pioneered a rather groundbreaking photographic technique with this film, and that's the use of Steadicam, which allowed the camera to weave gracefully through its environments, giving us a sense we were casually observing the film's downtrodden characters in a manner that cinema hadn't really given us before.
The Steadicam was at that point a very new invention, and one that I welcomed with huge relief. In the years just prior, many directors had found traditional studio cameras too confining/stultifying, and we'd begun to see significant use of hand-held cameras in an attempt to create greater verisimilitude. The problem was, often the hand-held-shot scenes made one dizzy (as many complained they did, years later, in the early scenes of Husbands and Wives). The Steadicam was a glorious compromise -- enabling the freedom of the hand-held with the stability of the studio machines. The tracking shot as we have come to know and love it in the decades since would not have been possible without this invention (which was the recipient of a Scientific/Technical Oscar -- one of the most visible ever given in that category).