It's hardly a debate anymore, but advocates of soft-core porn films typically rail against the mindlessness of hardcore XXX porn, and with good reason. But this 16mm grinder from 1970 is a perfect example that within the restrictions placed on soft X filmmakers, one could still crank out an equally mindless, all-sex product.
The handful of Cosmos films were made to supply the screen at a NYC 8th Avenue porn theater, though typically shot on the west coast. They usually have a hook for a brief storyline and then several scenes of simulated sex.
CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, made a year before the Mike Nichols classic movie, would appear to have a storyline, if one believes the one-line synopsis in IMDb or the similar one in the AFI Catalog for the 1960s decade of releases. But it turns out to be a pointless, improvised hour of wall-to-wall sex. Other than recognizing the famous faces in the cast it's as dull as dishwater, just like its hardcore offspring.
Most interesting oddities are John Holmes co-starring but not showing his cock. Though soon to be a selling point for the adult star, this early in his career it was apparently of no interest so his character Big Daddy just humps away as a miscellaneous male since the audience wants to see naked women.
Sandy Dempsey is here but her trademark butterfly thigh tattoo is covered up with a large ace bandage. So a historian or archaeologist would rightly conclude that at this point in time both male genitalia (especially of the huge kind) and women with tattoos were both turn-offs to Adult Theater audiences. Flash-forward to 2015 where it is positively refreshing to watch an adult video with an actress who has no tattoos at all (as rare as that has become) and I cannot imagine new male talent getting hired possessing a normal size or undersized dick.
Cast essentially laughs, makes pointless small talk, and pretends to have sex on a big pink couch, floor shag rug or in the bedroom. The six performers change partners and at a couple points in time the paying customers are accorded tight split-beaver closeups, which were all the rage in porn back in 1969 and 1970. But just because someone says "It's your birthday" to lead William Howard as the pimp doesn't make this a story film. Howard is a very familiar face from having appeared several times opposite Uschi Digard, but his career was seemingly snuffed out with the rise of hardcore. His cock is shown on screen several times during KNOWLEDGE and safely away from hint of penetration in the dry hump scenes but is always limp -an advantage for soft but no-no for hard XXX.
It's hardly a novelty for genre fans, but three times during the proceedings the doorbell rings to announce the arrival of some more cast members, and each time some stage manager or production assistant merely says "Ring-a-Ling". Too cheap to have an actual doorbell, sound effect or post-production dub.
FIlm features one of my favorites from the early '70s, puffy-nippled Lynn Harris, but like the rest of the cast she is poorly photographed and you hardly get to see her moneymakers. Perhaps that's the case with Johnny Wadd's raison d'etre, though I doubt it.
Picture ends with Howard's birthday present arriving, in the form of two nubile girls. This budget-busting labor cost increasing the talent roster from 6 to 8 makes no sense because the film ends abruptly soon after their arrival. In its DVD preserved version courtesy of Something Weird Video, John Dullaghan as Wild Willie returns to the living room, sees birthday present Kathy Hilton and acts shocked, and the film is suddenly over. We don't find out what gives - is she his daughter or something like that?
The answer of course is: who cares? Back then as now 45 years later I remain among the few souls who actually want a film to make sense and become agitated at the ellipses and lack of logic which permeate seemingly 95% of the junk made at all points in the spectrum, from porn and horror movies at one extreme and Jean-Luc Godard and his contemporaries at the other. That's my position and I'm sticking to it, no matter how crummy movies and now videos calling themselves films get.
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