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, "Ho... more »w 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 doppelgänger 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« less
Wing J. Flanagan | Orlando, Florida United States | 07/20/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Devoted as I am to Vladimir Nabokov's novel of Lolita, and as much good as there was in Adrian Lyne's more accurate interpretation of it, I must confess that Stanley Kubrick's 1962 film version functions better than either as social commentary. Nabokov's novel was radically subjective - not a thing happened unfiltered by its hero's own vision. Transliterated as it was by Adrien Lyne, the result was claustrophobic. Kubrick's film, by contrast, invited us to stand outside and look in at the strange behavior of mid-20th century America's "progressive" middle-class. That was the right approach. By not asking us to relate to an obvious pedophile, or any of the other characters, Kubrick allowed us to fully absorb the ethical and emotional consequences of their interactions.The oddly named Humbert Humbert (James Mason in, perhaps, his finest performance), comes to America from some unspecified European country. Looking for lodging, he crosses paths with Dolores "Lolita" Haze (Sue Lyon), and her mother Charlotte (brilliantly played by Shelley Winters). What follows is a black comedy swirling giddily around a host of sexual taboos - pedophilia chief among them, as Humbert finds himself sexually obsessed with the teen-aged Lolita. Had this been a TV-movie of the week, Lolita would have been the saintly victim of the villainous Humbert. Instead, Kubrick and Nabokov's Lolita is a precocious manipulator - awakening to her sexual identity and the strange power she can exert over members of the opposite sex. The difference, of course, is that she is a child and doesn't know any better; Humbert is an adult and damn well should. So, for that matter, should Clare Quilty, Humbert's rival for the attentions of the young nymphet. Quilty, though sicker than Humbert, is a farcical character, played brilliantly by Peter Sellers - the Robin Williams of his day. The edgy, blackly comedic tone is no better exemplified than in the scenes he and Humbert have together. It becomes obvious as the film progresses that, in some twisted way, Humbert actually loves Lolita, while Quilty sees her more as the object of a fetish. By the end, Humbert is reduced to a broken shell of a man, and it does not really matter if we approve of his behavior or not: he is still sympathetic, as much a victim of his own demons as Lolita herself, or her hapless mother. Without lifting a finger to "redeem" him, Kubrick forces us to come to terms with Humbert's humanity, as well as his perversion.Compare that to sanctimonious pap like American Beauty, a film that nearly demands that we "understand" its main character, even daring suggest that disapproving of his infatuation with a teenaged girl is akin to the homophobic excesses of his sadistic, one-dimensional ex-Marine neighbor (apparently ugly stereotypes are perfectly OK when applied to conservatives). Add to this a few patently absurd, over-the-top plot developments and Kubrick's Lolita begins looking better and better.Many have suggested that, had Kubrick made Lolita in a more permissive atmosphere, a different (therefore "better") film would have resulted. I doubt it. At the end of the day, Kubrick's Lolita is more about foolish, pathetic, self-destructive behavior, than pushing the limits of what salacious content we are allowed to see on-screen. It is about how obsession and hypocrisy can crush a person. It is about how very funny we are as a species, with our propensity destroy each other and ourselves for the pettiest, most absurd of reasons."
Shame on Warner for this fiasco DVD!
Lars Sandell | Sweden | 10/25/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This is the third DVD release of Kubrick's masterpiece, and it is still not given an anamorphic transfer. How can this happen in 2007, considering Warner's reputation as a studio that cares and the classic status of the film? Incredible. And not a trace of any new extras or bonuses except the trailer we've seen before. A huge boo to Warner! Words fail."
NOT ENHANCED FOR 16X9 TELEVISIONS
matt swanson | 10/23/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"As much as I appreciate a new release of this classic film, I am at a loss to understand why they would give it a widescreen treatment and not enhance it for widescreen televisions. All of the two-disc special editions in the new Kubrick boxed set are enhanced, and yet this one (not part of the set, but released at the same time) is not. If you're a Lolita fan you should stick with the original 1:33 version. This one will only frustrate you."
A masterpiece, and excellent DVD !
Michael Lellouche | paris, france | 01/24/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First, I would like to correct some mistakes read on these reviews : Lolita was shot before Strangelove, not after ! It is as masterful as Kubrick other movies. Sue Lyon is perfect in the role, and Nabokov has not been put apart by Kubrick. He wrote the screenplay, Kubrick filmed it (the way he wanted, it's his film), and it is to be said that Nabokov liked the film (unlike Stephen King who hated Shining). The character of Peter Sellers will be an unforgettable memory for all viewers, and I believe he's even funnier and brillant that in Strangelove. Besides, unlike 2001 (with compression problems, impossible to watch!), Lolita is the best master and image quality of the Kubrick DVD Collection. I would give a big A for the image which is simply perfect. This DVD could easily be selected as a Criterion edition. Buy it, you won't regret it. it's full of wit, subversive, humor, slapstick (in the hotel room), disguise, perversity, immorality and brillant acting (Shelley Winter is so perfect that we all want to kill her !). A MUST !"
Who Corrupts Whom?
Robert Morris | Dallas, Texas | 09/19/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a long film (152 minutes) and actually two-films-in-one. The first focuses on Humbert Humbert (James Mason) and his involvement with his landlady, Charlotte Haze (Shelley Winters), as well as on his strong physical attraction to her teenage daughter Lolita (Sue Lyon). The second and (in my opinion) much less effective segment continues the plot but without Charlotte. Winters brings so much energy to her role as a sexually frustrated widow whose cultural pretensions are both hilarious and pathetic but never endearing. When she is no longer on screen, the plot sags. Mason's performance is consistently first-rate but Lyon's body makes promises her acting skills cannot keep. When she and Mason are required to sustain the narrative, the results are often disappointing. As for the character Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers), I really don't know what quite to make of him. Presumably he represents corruption in various forms and is viewed by Humbert is an unworthy, indeed despicable rival for Lolita's attention. For whatever reasons, Sellers seems to be going through the motions. The supporting players are OK. None stands out.
Lolita was directed by Stanley Kubrick and is essentially based on Vladimir Nabakov's controversial novel in which the nymphet is 12 (not 15) and therefore her relationship with Humbert is (or was in 1955) all-the-more shocking. Because of its truly effective social satire, I would rate the first segment more than Five Stars if I could but rate the second segment (at best) Three Stars, hence the rating which appears above."