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Lolita (1962) [VHS]
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When director Stanley Kubrick released his film adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel about a hopelessly pathetic middle-aged professor's sexual obsession with his 12-year-old stepdaughter, the ads read, "How did they ever make a film of Lolita?" The answer is "they" didn't. As he did with his "adaptations" of Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange, and, especially, The Shining, Kubrick used the source material and, simply put, made another Stanley Kubrick movie--even though Nabokov himself wrote the screenplay. The chilly director nullifies Humbert Humbert's (James Mason's) overwhelming passion and desire, and instead transforms the story, like many of his films, into that of a man trapped and ruined by social codes and by his own obsessions. Kubrick doesn't play this as tragedy, however, but rather as both a black-as-coffee screwball comedy and a meandering, episodic road movie. The early scenes between Humbert, Lolita (a too-old but suitably teasing Lyons) and her loud, garish mother (Shelley Winters in one of her funniest performances) play like a wonderful farce. When Humbert finally fulfills his desires and captures Lolita, the pair hit the road and Kubrick drags in Peter Sellers. As the pedophilic writer Clare Quilty--Humbert's playful doppelg?nger and biggest threat--Sellers dons a series of disguises with plans of stealing Lolita away from her captor. It's here more than anywhere that Kubrick comes closest to the novel. He extends Nabokov's idea of the games and puzzles played between reader and writer, Quilty and Humbert, Lolita and Humbert, etc., to those between filmmaker and audience: the road eventually goes nowhere and Humbert's reality is exposed as mad delusion. Perhaps not a Kubrick masterpiece, or the provocative film many wanted, Lolita still remains playfully fascinating and one of Kubrick's strongest, funniest character studies. --Dave McCoy

Customer Reviews:

  • Diluted Cautionary Tale Benefits from Smart Casting and Kubrick's Cinematic ¨¦lan
    There's always been a pall of prurience over Vladimir Nabokov's classic 1955 novel, and although the prurience was dialed down to mere naughtiness in the 1962 film adaptation, there is still that discomforting feeling of watching two pedophiliacs chasing after a very young girl. However, master director Stanley Kubrick wisely left out the book's more controversial aspects and entrusted the audience to use their fervent imaginations to fill in the action. This explains why the title character, a twelve-year-old nymphet in the book, has turned into a fifteen-year old screen siren played by an already anatomically developed, throaty-voiced Sue Lyon. The switch neutralizes some of the dramatic impact, but fortunately, Kubrick was able to elicit a quartet of fine performances to carry the story. Even though Nabokov is credited with the screenplay, Kubrick made a number of revisions to clarify the narrative flow and appease the censors. The result is far too long at 153 minutes, but it's still provocatively entertaining as it alternates between funny and eccentric. It's well worth seeing the caliber of Kubrick's cinematic work between 1960's Spartacus and 1964's Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

    The film opens with a shooting which we soon realize is the story's inevitable climax. After that, we flash back four years to the arrival of Professor Humbert Humbert in a small town in New Hampshire. A middle-aged British lecturer of French poetry, he has accepted a teaching job in Ohio for the fall and wants to relax in what he envisions to be a quiet setting for the summer. Humbert rents a room from Charlotte Haze, a blowsy, fortyish widow with immediate designs on him. However, his eye is drawn to her sexy, flirtatious daughter Lolita. Things go awry when Humbert decides to marry Charlotte to be near Lolita. When his true motivation is discovered, tragedy occurs, and Humbert and Lolita set out on a most acrimonious road trip to Ohio. Complications multiply with the periodic appearances of writer Claire Quilty, who also faces temptation with Lolita. For those unfamiliar with the novel, the story takes a surprising twist toward the end.

    As Humbert, James Mason has the riskiest role, but he effectively manages to convey a dangerous sense of obsession throughout the film. Although his character is basically despicable, Mason still elicits a modicum of sympathy for his perverse weakness. Sue Lyon, fourteen during filming, not only looks right but also brings the necessary combination of precocious confidence and childish selfishness to the title role. You can see echoes of their taboo relationship between Lester and Angela in Sam Mendes' American Beauty. Donning a variety of disguises as Quilty and sporting a flat American accent, Peter Sellers easily steals all his scenes with comic malevolence. The surprising standout is Shelley Winters' performance as Charlotte. Instead of overdoing the character's desperation as you would normally expect from the actress' outsized persona, she is comparatively subtle in conveying Charlotte's needy nature. The only significant extra with the 2007 DVD is the original theatrical trailer which plays up the book's controversy....more info
  • most of you are correct
    while most of you are correct about the DVD "lolita" one of you left out something very important.
    yes both men end up dead, one shot and one from heart failue.
    lolita too dies, she doesnt go on with life with the guy she met her own age, she dies during child birth less than a month after the professor dies in prison.

    it is a decent movie with a good story line just don't get it thinking you will see a lot of explicit material because that is not what the movie is meant to be and you will be disappointed....more info

  • Not Stanley Kubricks Best but a Good Film in it's own right.
    "Lolita" is a disturbing film that had it been made today (especially by Stanley Kubrick) would probably be much more graphic and much more controversial.The story is essentially a love story although it's also a story about child exploitation and obsession.Now I don't know anyone who's even seen a Stanley Kubrick film so I don't really know how people feel about this film but I think it was good.James Mason plays Humbert Humbert who's going to teach another semester at a college but needs a temporary place to live.He shacks up with an obnoxious woman for the sole purpose of being close to her 12 year old daughter Lolita (Sue Lyons). After Lolita is sent to camp, Humbert marries the woman so he can be even closer to Lolita. But the mother is hit by a car after finding Humberts journal revealing some of his thoughts about her and Lolita. Humbert is left to raise Lolita and enrolls her in a new school and begins teaching at a college.All the while he's also (unknowingly) trying to keep playwright Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers) away from Lolita. Quilty is a bit more obsessed about Lolita than Humbert is and will stop at pretty much nothing to have her for himself. The movie is quite sad and heartbreaking. I felt sorry for a lot of the characters even Humbert as it turns out. Kubrick is good at making things that aren't creepy be creepy like the part where Sellers sits in Humberts house. That scene is weirdly creepy for some reason although there is nothing even remotely creepy about it. That's another thing that makes Stanley Kubrick an overly talented director.This is not even close to being his best film but it's a good film.B+....more info
  • "Don't Stand So Close to Me"
    Although this movie does not really accurately portray Nabokov's story, it is a work of art in itself. Sue Lyon is perfect as the object of sexual obsession. James Mason is perfect as the obsessed. Shelly Winters is perfect as Shelly Winters. Sue was never able to continue on with different roles and we wonder what she would have been like if she had. We are able to start to see some of Stanley Kubrick's genius in this early movie of his career. Although, I don't personally approve of this type of situation, I am highly entertained by it and we have all known characters that resemble the characters in the movie. They are people we snicker about behind hand-covered mouths. The song by the Police, "Don't Stand So Close to Me" serves to conjure up scenes from the movie and provides a romanticized and fitting musical tribute....more info
  • Little Lo, The Story Of A Nymphet
    Kubrick's masterpiece of 1962 with James Mason & Shelley Winters. It far surpasses in every way the 1998 remake (although I loved Jeremy Iron's portrayal of Humbert). Sometimes the imagination is more graphic & shocking than what is able to be filmed (especially in 1962!).

    Plus, the B&W lends itself well to Nabokov's novel... Read the book! It is MOST EXCELLENT also!...more info

  • Not "the" Lolita, but a Brilliant Lolita nonetheless
    As the theatrical trailer reminds us, making a movie of Lolita in the early 60s was a well-nigh impossible gesture. Nabokov's novel, with all its byzantine word games, centers on the ultimate taboo: Child rape. It's a tribute to Nabokov's genius that his point-of-view character, chief protagonist Humbert Humbert (the unnatural redundancy of the name suggests incest, among other things) can court our sympathies with any degree of success. He's a pathetic, cowardly monster who kidnaps and rapes his own stepdaughter and holds her hostage to his desires until she escapes from him. Yet his ardor for the beloved 'nymphet,' with all its accompanying jealousy, possessiveness and the downright terror of her falling into the hands of teenage boys, says something profound about the irrational nature of love. When Lolita finally slips from his clutches, it's the body following the illusion Humbert has created; he never legitimately had her/owned her, but neither does any lover, ultimately.

    Stanley Kubrick's film of Lolita is not the novel, as the most helpful positive reviewer points out. It simply couldn't have been done at the time, but neither does Adrian Lynne's 1998 adaptation do it justice (I suspect that no one, not even a latter-day Luis Bunuel, could make the "real" Lolita, with all of its hall-of-mirrors splendor intact). But considering the limitations involved, Kubrick's is a marvelous work. Using a sublime cast--Peter Sellers steals the show as Quilty, James Mason is wonderfully Humbertian, and Sue Lyons is a convincingly vulgar childish enticement--and working from Nabokov's own script, Kubrick delicately cuts the outline of monstrosity from symbolism, clues and cues to the actual evil at hand that range from the subtle to the hilariously overt (Lolita attends something called Camp Climax; Humbert refers to the Dairy Queen as the Frigid Queen, with all the Freudian matter that conveys). For all the talk of Kubrick's formalism he can be very funny, and his film of Lolita has slapstick qualities to rival Buster Keaton, along with all the droll suggestions of naughtiness indicated above. A very enjoyable film and one that bears repeated viewing....more info
  • Pretty great
    Do yourself a favor-and see this version of Lolita before you, or if you ever do get around to watching the 1997 film.This movie captures the novel's essence a whole lot more; not to mention, it's superbly acted and written, and feautures an array of great scenes.

    James Mason is wonderful as Humbert Humbert. Stiff and charming and doomed all at the same time, he conveys his characters' feelings perfectly.Shelly Winters is an absolute riot and adds all the spunk and humor to the first part of the film.Peter Sellers works in some great lines as the pathetic Quilty, and Sue Lyons; well, she's not much of an actress, and she's a tad too old for the part.But the age gap is hardly noticeable, and one doesn't need to be much of an actress in order to convey the part of Lolita-she's more like a backdrop to the movie than an actual character. Yes, things get a bit drab in the end-the movie is certainly a whole lot more fun and irresistable in the beginning,due partly to the presence of Shelly Winters. And this film lacks the emotional impact, although I'm pretty sure it was intended as more of a dark comedy than a drama.

    I don't think this movie is worthy of classic status or anything, but it's quite a great film.It's got great performances, and the script is absolute perfection,a marvel, I can't tell you how good it is(written by Nabokov himself).It's definately worth a watch, whatever your tastes.Don't expect to be blown away, but do expect to be fairly pleased, as all in all, this is a fine film.And if you're really,really curious, well then read the novel, which is more dense and difficult than one would imagine....more info

  • A cult movie!
    This is a sublime adaptation of Nabokov ' s novel . This a controversial story of a man in the critical age who suddenly is infauted with a "nymphet" . Satiric script around the consequences derivated from an unhappy decision .
    In the cinema story we must to remind The blue angel (Joseph von Sternberg) that is very close in that spirit and Tristana (Luis Bu?uel) about another novel of Benito Perez Galdos and more recently the famous Sam Mendes film American beauty .
    In this case the perpetual and present of the nymphet in the emotional , afective and disturbing world of a man in the middle age causes a fatal atraction that slowly will be growing in intensity and high caliber drama . The reflections about the double moral about the thin line between the rol of father and passionate man are difuse. James Mason made one of his best works in the screen and Peter Sellers is amazing too . And considering Kubrick as director , How can you lose this game?
    Superb!...more info
  • Warner Brothers Gives Capitalism a Bad Name
    What a sleazy tactic: WB reissues the same lame DVD version of this magnificent film the same day that they release the Kubrick special edition box set. Yes...I know...there was nothing in the description of this DVD to mislead people into thinking that this was also a special edition. I remember thinking that when I preordered it. But I figured if WB is going through the trouble of reissuing Lolita on the same day as the special edition box set, then the DVD must be improved in some way (anamorphic, extras, SOMETHING!). But alas...I was duped into buying what I already had. Shame on me for giving WB the benefit of the doubt....more info
  • Very disjointed...
    It goes without saying that the book is better than the movie, but I just had to say it anyway because it's so true. There are a ton of great reviews of the movie here on Amazon so I'll be brief.

    3 Stars were given becuase of the very fine acting, especially Shelly Winters. Winters portrays almost exactly the Charlotte Haze that I had envisioned in my mind when reading the book. Sue Lyon does a fine job as Dolores even though she looks nothing at all like how I pictured Lolita in my mind, she's too pretty.

    My main gripe about the movie is the incessant fading to black after every scene and the constant appearances of Quilty!
    The most annoying scene in the entire movie is when Quilty comes out to talk to Humbert at the hotel.
    In the movie Peter Sellers goes on a long strange ramble that makes very little sense and was a little annoying to me.
    However, this scene in the book, when the understandably paranoid Humbert is biding his time waiting for his drugged nymphet to finally go unconscious is surprised to find another guest on the patio with him, is one of my very favorite scenes in the book. The artful way that Nabokov has our "poor Humbert" mis-hear the casual conversation of his fellow guest was truly a master work of literature, the movie totally botched this scene!
    OK movie of a great book......more info
  • Nice movie, but it's not Nabokov's "Lolita"
    If ever the statement that the movie is not as good as the book is true, it applies to Kubrick's "Lolita". I really like the movie on its own, but it bears little resemblance to the novel (my favorite) other than young girl/old man, the names, and the broadest structure of the story.

    Problem areas:

    1. Age - by Humbert's definition, a nymphet is between 9 and 14 years old. Sue Lyon was too old, and looked even older. Mason was about 10 years too old as well, and not really the "glamour man" Lo would be attracted to (as in the book).
    2. Disregard for the content of the novel - by ignoring the screenplay written by the original author and making up other scenes that were not part of the book, it makes one wonder what story was being told.
    3. Location - in the novel, Humbert and Lolita travel 27,000 miles in the course of a couple years, and geography plays a substantial part in the book. Filming in England provides little geography and motel-hopping lifestyle that was so prevalent in the novel.
    4. The same three things in both versions of the movie bother me, as I feel it robs Humbert of some nuance to his character:
    A. No mention of his pre-Lolita first wife, Valeria. He was not always just into nymphets.
    B. No mention of his post-Lolita second wife, Rita, (and taping a goodbye note to her navel so she would find it as he goes off to track down Lo).
    C. The last page-and-a-half from the book was left out. This is possibly the most moving passage of the novel - when Humbert offers his apology for all his nastiness, and his admonition to Lolita, and the revelation that neither Lolita nor Humbert are alive as we read the book, and his pathetic summation..."I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita." It ties everything together and completes the circle.


    1. Acting - this was good by the 4 prime characters - Lolita (Sue Lyon), Humbert (James Mason), Charlotte (Shelley Winters) and Quilty (Peter Sellers).
    2. Cinematography - nicely filmed, in black-and-white.

    This is a good movie - but it certainly is not Nabokov's "Lolita"....more info
  • A Funnier Stanley Kubrick film.
    If this movie had been made today by Stanley Kubrick (if he was still alive) people would probably be mad.People would probably claim the movie promotes child lust among other things,but since it was made in 1962,nine years before Kubricks masterpiece "A Clockwork Orange" was released,people don't really care much.Plus I don't know anyone whos even heard of "Lolita" nor have I seen the remake so I don't know how graphic it is.But anyway the movie is about Humbert Humbert (James Mason).Before teaching another semester at a colleg,Humbert moves in with a woman only because of her beautiful daughter Lolita (Sue Lyons).Before long he marries the woman for the sole purpose of being closer to Lolita.
    But the woman is killed in a car accident and Humbert is left to raise Lolita.Humbert develops a strong bond with Lolita but he still (unknowingly) has to deal with playwright Claire Quilty
    (Peter Sellers) trying to steal Lolita away from him. I found this movie funny but it also had a deep down creepiness to it that is obviously because of Kubrick.Kubrick knows how to make something that has no reason to be creepy be creepy.Anyway though I had not heard of any of the actors in this movie except for Peter Sellers.But besides the comedy and creepiness it's also sad.I felt sorry for a lot of the characters especially Masons characters.Not Kubricks best film but still is a masterpiece.B+....more info
    Even though this film is considered a classic, it still has not come close to the recognition it deserves. Despite its controversial theme, it's still very moving. The soundtrack is as underrated as the movie....more info
  • An Innovative Sixties' Look
    "Lolita" is an ode to the sexually experimental sixties delivered by directorial baton master Stanley Kubrick. While the film's listed screenwriter is Vladimir Nabokov, author of the novel being adapted to the screen, when his scenario was ultimately published it became obvious that Kubrick had placed his own stylish imprint on the script of the daring film.

    The film begins in the manner of 1950 noir classic "Sunset Boulevard" in that we learn that one main character has been eliminated by another. In the earlier film it was William Holden being shot by live in love Gloria Swanson, while in the 1963 Kubrick masterpiece an enraged and helpless James Mason makes good in his threat to kill Peter Sellers. Before he is shot Sellers chides him, preferring to believe that his adversary will never follow through with his homicidal plan.

    We then proceed to action four years earlier via flashback, when professor of literature Mason decides to spend a quiet summer in New Hampshire before starting a new job in the fall at an Ohio college. He encounters love-starved widow Shelley Winters. She hopes that his decision to rent a room in her home is occasioned by mutual attraction. The motivator is instead an overpowering attraction toward her 14-year-old daughter, beautiful blonde Lolita played by screen newcomer Sue Lyon.

    Tragedy occurs when Winters, reading Mason's private diary, learns that he thinks of her as a "love sick cow" and is passionately in love with Lyon. She runs out into the street and is killed by an oncoming car.

    Mason uses his strategic wits to become more than Lyon's stepfather, making good on his romantic designs. Trouble soon looms, however, from an invading force.

    The catalyst of danger is none other than Peter Sellers, who puts his virtuosity to work by masquerading as various characters such as a policeman and psychiatrist, tormenting Mason by convincing him that he knows what he is up to and that he might be perilously close to the jailhouse door.

    Ultimately Lyon leaves a devastated Mason. When he realizes that the zany but wily Sellers has let him court danger through sex with a minor while he plots to successfully take her away in a cleverly subtle ploy, Mason's desperation is pushed to full throttle. The scenes between masterful tortured intellectual Mason and innovatively zany Sellers are some of the best in cinema annals, daring explorations of sexually driven psyches orchestrated by the imaginative Kubrick....more info

  • "Hum, I'm lonesome!"
    I'm not at all a fan of Stanley Kubrick - as far as I'm concerned, "Lolita" is a fluke. This is one of the greatest of American movies, if not THE greatest: a flawed, funny, humanistic masterpiece. Apparently some think it ought to have been different - perhaps more explicit - which is absurd. As it stands, the movie is perfect.

    The story itself - dealing with the pedophile Humbert Humbert and his quarry Dolores Haze - is almost subsumed in the movie's offerings of bizarre scenes and convincing performances. The standouts include Shelley Winters as the girl's pretentious mother, an artsy suburbanite who sweeps dramatically around her house, seeming to imagine that she lives in a Russian novel - as hilarious as her character is, her fate remains genuinely tragic. And then there's Peter Sellers, playing at least three different characters, all conspiring against Humbert as the deluded European makes his way with girl in tow across the United States.

    Not a movie for the impatient - the plot takes its time to get going, and every scene is talky (though never boring) - "Lolita" remains a classic....more info
  • 1961 Black & White
    Brilliant 2 1/2 hours of character portrayal by Mason, Sellers, Winters and the lovely Lolita.
    Kubrick's depiction of Freudian sexuality,murder,possesiveness,insecurity, a world without purpose but the maximization of one's pleasure within one's own private world shot and executed so carefully as to all detail makes this a remarkable tour De force.
    This film adaption whether true to the original makes no difference since this movie is cast in the contemporary 1960's at a cusp of sociological change.
    The drama is excellent and what comes to mind is Joan Crawford's Possessed and Edward G. Robinson's Scarlet Street but shot in the early 1960's with all themes intact.
    The movies captures the tensions between the old and new extremely well,...more info
  • Travesty: Portrait of the Rapist as a Gentleman
    What is wrong with this movie? Almost everything. It turns Nabokov's text about the memoirs of a pedophile into a melancholy comedy about a sad middle aged man, Mason, who gets trapped by a very young seducer and fights for her with a silly Sellers character.
    The movie contributed to the stereotype of the prematurely sexy girl, who entraps older men.
    That is not what Nabokov's book was about. I think the book can not be turned into a movie without being either illegal or messing up the contents badly and mortally. Humbert Humbert, the main character and narrator of the book, is attracted to female children, not to the type of 'Lolita' that has become idiomatic after the film, i.e. a sexy precocious seducer. The book is a complex construction based on the untrustworthy story teller concept. We know that HH is a lier.
    Nabokov wrote not only the novel, but also the original script for the film, and when the film did get Oscars, he got one for the script, though Kubrick had in fact largely ignored the script. There is a Library of America edition which includes the novel and the script. The end product is just something else, and it is something not very appealing....more info
  • Great Movie
    This movie is funny, intense, and pure greatness. Almost as good as the book. A lot less sexual than the book Lolita. Even though this movie is black and white it somehow feels colorful because of Lolita's personality....more info
  • LOLITA Deserves Better Than This Botched Warner DVD.
    _Lolita_ (1962) is a great movie, with a lousy, non-anamorphic DVD transfer.

    You would think that Warner would get it right by the time of the third DVD release. Yet, _Lolita_ still plays with black bars all around when displayed on a widescreen TV.

    The non-anamorphic treatment of the THIRD _Lolita_ DVD release is typical of Warner. It seems that even Academy Award winners get the non_anamorphic treatment: The original _Driving Miss Daisy_ and _Bonnie and Clyde_ DVDs were released in a non-anamorphic format. These two titles were later re-released -- at reduced prices -- in anamorphic versions.

    Sometimes Warner puts its "Enhanced for widesreeen TVs" message on a DVD box, even though the enclosed DVD is non-anamorphic. The original, non-anamorphic versions of _Goodfellas_ and _JFK_ were given such false advertising, but subsequent re-releases were actually anamorphic. On the other hand, the original _Cabaret_ DVD was non-anamorphic. Now, the second DVD release of _Cabaret_ claims to be "Enhanced for widescreen TVs", but alas, the "new" DVD is the same old non-anamorphic garbage in a new box....more info
  • An unbiased review of the worst Kubrick film I've seen
    Considering how brilliant 2001: A Space Odyssey and Barry Lyndon were, it's kind of hard to imagine Stanley Kubrick making a bad film. Unfortunately, throughout his prolific career, he did make a couple of clunkers, and Lolita is definitely one of them.

    The comedy was misplaced and unfunny, the creepiness was corny and uncreepy, and the overall mood was as dry as sandpaper. The deepest, and the most artistic, scene in the entire film was the introduction. Aside from that, barely anything was impressive or accessible enough to draw me in. For most of the 2 1/2 hours, I watched each scene lumber by, and barely cared for what I was seeing.

    Why was Clare Quilty such a front and center character? Was it because Peter Sellers agreed to play the part, and they wanted to see as much of him as possible? Is that why they chose to over-develop his character, give him more lines than anyone, have him play two characters, and stray completely from the poetic chords that made the book so moving? And why was Humbert Humbert's background so under-explained? If you had never read the book, the deeper reasons behind his sickness, and everything else, would be mostly unknown.

    The story and the character development jump about with hardly any subtly. For example: Humbert, out of the clear blue, begins to rant about his controlling wife, and a few moments later, he contemplates on ways to kill her with a gun. There were no hints about him having murderous tendencies within the story's chronology, but all of a sudden he does?

    And there is no sexual tension or chemistry between Humbert and Lolita; you can barely tell that they have a relationship at all. Maybe the 1960s censors are to blame for this. Nevertheless, the relationship still feels very shallow, unbelievable, and unjustified. Why would a beautiful young girl want to have sex with a man who was as old and as ugly as Humbert was in this film? This is never explained.

    As a longtime Kubrick fan, I'm not afraid to say that this film downright sucked. I only give it a 3 out of 5 because it wasn't entirely awful. There were moments when Kubrick's trademark directing and cinematography sparkled through, but, overall, I was extremely disappointed....more info
  • A humorous look at a very human obsession...
    The opening scene of `Lolita' is flawless, utterly flawless. In fact, it may be one of my favorite movie sequences of all time, flaunting one of my favorite supporting performances of all time; Peter Sellers' Clare Quincy. Sellers marvelously uses his wit and humor to draw us into his character and create a bond with us, wetting our appetite as to what he is really all about. As he staggers from side to side and attempts to humor his unexpected guest we find ourselves fully embraced by this film and completely ready to delve right into Kubrick's vision.

    Many have baulked at that said vision, claiming that it strays to far from Vladimar Nabokov's scandalous novel. I personally have never read the novel (I really should now) and so I cannot comment on that regard, but Kubrick has been known for his personal interpretation of his source material so it doesn't surprise me. I personally was recently called out for judging a film based on its source material and was told, and I quote:

    "This review is not a film review; it is a disappointed review from a reader that can't distinguish the art of movies from the art of literature."

    I want to address this subject since Kubrick is the master of making each and every movie his own vision versus that of the original author or materials. The reason I criticized that particular film (`Less than Zero' for anyone wondering) was that is veered so much from the original text that it dumbed down the authors initial concept and created a generic film about drug addiction that did nothing to distinguish itself as important or vital. It took the authors marvelous concept and delivery and muddled it with clich¨¦s and in the end created a film void of any real substance. The difference between a film like that and anything Kubrick has made is that, while he may veer from the original intended impact the source material conveyed he always creates a film filled to the brim with substance and vision and thus creates a film that is socially important. Just look at what he did with `A Clockwork Orange' or `The Shining'. He may have strayed from the authors originally penned words, but he never extracted true meaning and emotional impact from his work. Both films are marvelous examples of inspired vision.

    That said, `Lolita' does not disappoint in remaining true to Kubrick's style and vision.

    The story follows Professor Humbert Humbert as he entertains his dangerous attraction to the underage Lolita. Humbert first meets Lolita when he is being shown a room within her mothers home he is planning on renting. It is the sight of the beautiful blonde that seals the deal and convinces Humbert to rent the room. Despite his lusting for Lolita, it is her mother Charlotte that desires to have her way with Humbert, and eventually Humbert gives in to her advances if only to have more time to spend with Lolita.

    I was shocked in the route Kubrick went with the film, straddling the edges of a black comedy as apposed to embracing the film as a serious and dramatic adult film. I only had the synopsis and the many years of hearing the term `Lolita' thrown around as a backdrop so I was expecting a much darker film. What I got though was an entertaining look at the amusing side of the male psyche.

    When you think about Humbert's situation, it is not as far fetched and or `scandalous' as one may initially conclude. While yes, his eventual `relationship' with Lolita is illegal and morally repulsive his initial attraction is not that uncommon for men of his age and even younger. She is a pretty young girl who is obviously mature for her age and is flirtatious beyond her years; whether out of spite for her mother or out of repressed urges caused by the loss of a father in such a dramatic way. Nevertheless, her advances towards Humbert, no matter how subtle, no doubt would draw his attention towards those not-so-grey areas in life. What `Lolita' shows is the danger in succumbing to those human desires and the aftereffect that it has on a man's soul. As Humbert dives into a relationship with Lolita he becomes raked with guilt and insecurities as he struggles to keep Lolita to himself despite her obvious desire to be free of him. Watching Humbert slowly fray until he becomes a panicked skeleton of his former self is both humorous as well as alarming. His obsession consumes and in the end controls him to the point where he is a slave to his own pagan desires even though he knows they are morally corrupt.

    I think the biggest reason this `comical' approach works is that it manages to humanize the situation as apposed to over dramatize it. Sometimes when a film takes a very dramatic approach to a subject such as this one it can come across almost otherworldly, as if the situation were so horrible it could never happen. The approach taken here helps the audience to see that this is more common than one may want to admit.

    The film, and Kubrick's vision, are pushed along by some very strong performances, most notably that of Peter Sellers who plays Clare Quincy, Humbert's rival. Sellers has often been lauded as the king of comedy and so it is not too farfetched to conclude that he would be the comical highlight of the film. His opening scene along is marvelously constructed. Like I said; one of the greatest supporting performances of all time. Shelley Winters is also extremely memorable and utterly hysterical as Charlotte. Her performance solidifies her as one of the greats and really defines her characters desperations beautifully.

    The two main stars really had to sell this though, and so without the dedication of both James Mason and Sue Lyon `Lolita' would have fallen flat. Mason comes off a tad boring during the first half of the film, but as his characters obsessions get the better of him it becomes apparent that that `boringness' was necessary to creating the needed effect of a mind gone mad. He was just a normal guy who lost it because of the passions of a young girl. Sue Lyon is very effective as Lolita. From her first scene we can tell that she is extremely desirable. For a young actress (and a debut performance at that) she really holds her own amongst the cast and does a very fine job of making Humbert Humbert relatable, because truth-be-told, we want her as much as he does.

    In the end I must call `Lolita' yet another Kubrick masterpiece. It is far from what I expected but in the end it manages to exceed my expectations because it became something so much more than a generic drama. Kubrick is nothing short of a genius, and this film fits beautifully in his catalog of marvelous cinematic gems....more info
  • AMERICAN BEAUTY for the 60's crowd...
    Stanley Kubrick takes the controversial novel, and brings us the tale of an older man driven mad by the lustful desires that he has for his teenage stepdaughter. James Mason is perfect as Humpbert Humpbert, who is the main subject of this character study. Shelly Winters is appropriately annoying as Lolita's pseudo-intellectual mother, and Sue Lyons is perfect in the role of Lolita. Peter Sellers has a hilarious role as Quilty, a pedophile comedian who also wants to bed Lolita -- and will go to any lengths he can to do so.

    Under Stanley Kubrick's direction, this is a must see classic. It was quite controversial in it's day, and it still has the power to disturb, in my opinion. Humpbert is simply the Lester Burnham of the sixties.

    Kubrick fans must seek this one out!...more info
  • Yo 'lita!!!
    Never read Nabokov's novel but for my money, this is one of the most sophisticated film comedies of all time--and one that looks better every year as we are subjected to ever more crappy movies each decade. James Mason, Shelley Winters (too bad the plot hinged on her demise so early in the film--she's never been funnier) and Peter Sellers are in top form and even neophyte Sue Lyons more than holds her own. Dazzling dialog, a super early Sixties score and striking b&w cinematography only add to the fun. Truly a film for the ages. . .or under-ages!...more info
  • 3.5 stars out of 4
    The Bottom Line:

    As long as you don't go into Lolita expecting to see Nabakov's novel put literally on screen, you'll probably be impressed by this fine (if a tad long) adaptation; the acting is top-notch, the B/W cinematography very effective and the conclusion surprisingly poignant ...more info
  • Does the novel justice
    I think Nabokov's Lolita is one of the greatest novels of all time, and Kubrick's film version does the book ample justice. James Mason is sublime as Humbert Humbert - an intellectual old world European emigre who finds himself in 1950s America on a professorship. His patrician aloofness rubs against the provincial Charlotte Hayes - a homely woman struggling with a recalcitrant daughter Lolita. The poor woman has no idea the depths of the obsession within Humbert's mind - all swirling high culture and depraved Eros. She gives him space in her house to write, and falls in love with him. Humbert is after something much darker - her brattish, nymphette daughter Lolita, but marries Mrs Hayes in order to maintain contact with the family.

    The Nabokov style is encapsulated in the film: 'And when called upon to enjoy my promotion from lodger to lover, did I experience only bitterness and distaste? No. Mr. Humbert confesses to a certain titillation of his vanity, to some faint tenderness, even to a pattern of remorse, daintily running along the steel of his conspiratorial dagger.'

    The movie, necessarily can't be as dark as the novel given the subject matter. Lolita is more high school prom queen than true pre-teen. Clare Quilty features as a chameleon rival, played with comic mastery by Peter Sellars. It is a different type of comedy than the novel - more laconic and at times slapstic (the cot in the bedroom scene) than truly dark chocolate subversive. But a Kubrick triumph in any case. And the notoriously hard to please Nabokov thought so too. ...more info
  • One of the best movies ever
    I will never get bored of this movie. I can watch it over and over and still love every minute of it. Of course it's not all like the book...but really, like someone else said: why should it be? It shouldnt!
    James Mason does a marvelous job. I love his voice (also narrating the Tale Tell Heart, cartoon verison). Sue Lyon does great, as does Winters.
    The music in the film is so catchy! I love Lolita Ya Ya. It will be stuck in my head forever!...more info
  • A Trip
    You know I have been hearing in most of these post how Humbert Humbert just "loved" Lolita so much, but not one time have I heard how Lolita felt about Humbert. Old Humbert was just another (...)to me; Why would he go and get with this woman looking for love(just as desperate as u please) just to get to the daughter? what does that look like to you? And if Kubrick had used a younger Lolita than Sue Lyons(one that was truly around 12 as the book said)I don't think that movie would have been made at that time; That would have been a bit profane and out of order; Then why lie to the child about her mother's death? going about the country acting like a bunch of lovesick controlling cows and having folk looking at you all cockeyed. Then having another man(...)follow you, even to come into your house to "advise" you on what to do; Uhh Uh;Just another (...)beating you to your own game; ...more info