The Bad-Sex Blockbuster

Ann-Margaret and Jack Nicholson in Carnal Knowledge. (MGM)
Fifty years later, Carnal Knowledge remains a brilliant, lacerating tour de force.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE F ifty years ago today, a film about deceit, bad sex, impotence, and misogyny emerged as the surprise smash of the summer box office. Written by Jules Feiffer and directed by Mike Nichols, the lacerating and brilliant Carnal Knowledge was released on June 30, 1971, and became the film everyone hated yet everyone had to see. It’s the romcom as horror movie, so bleak and brutal about human sexual politics that it touched off an obscenity case that went to the Supreme Court. Yet there’s no explicit sex in it; the film is obscene only in the sense that it’s nasty.


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