Lolita (1962) Poster


User Reviews

Add a Review
224 Reviews
Sort by:
Whispering, Loudly
M. J Arocena7 April 2007
A riveting transposition from page to screen. The accomplices are two giants in both fields. Nabokov adapts his own infamous novel for the screen and Kubrick, no less, translates it into images in a way that makes it unique, unforgettable and transcendental without ever putting himself in front of the camera. A Kubrick film can't be recognized by its style. Kubrick never made two films alike but there is something that, unquestionable, makes them stand out. In "Lolita"'s case the mere idea of touching the controversial novel with its taboo subject at its very core seem like a provocation from the word go. Pornography for the thinking man in which the only explicit act is the intention written in the character's eyes. Nothing is excessive and nothing is pulled back. James Mason - villain or victim - is monumental, mo-nu-men-tal! The unspeakable truth never leaves his brow. He is the most civilized man trapped in the lowest echelon of his own psyche. So aware, that it is painful to watch. Shelley Winters goes for it, taking her Mrs Hayes for all its worth and dives into the void of a desperate housewife, craving for sex. It is one of the most entertaining, shattering human spectacles, I've ever seen. But unlike Mason, she's not aware of it. There is a horrible innocence attached to her sickness. Peter Sellers's character from hell, the torturer comes in three riveting characterizations and Sue Lyon's temptress, the child, is the devil incarnate in a performance that defies description. None of them were nominated for Oscars and the film was condemned by every moral group in America and beyond. As film experiences go, this is one of the most provocative, enthralling, disgusting, entertaining and satisfying I've ever been through. Yep, I really mean that.
140 out of 161 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Lolita 55 years later
damian-fuller4 December 2017
I sat to watch Lolita for the third time. The first time I was too young to truly understand what I was seeing. Then I read the book a few years later and saw the film again. That time it left a mark. I detested James Mason's Humbert Humbert to such a degree that stopped me from accepting him in other roles other than utter villains. To see it now after two decades is a whole other story - All of a sudden James Mason's Humbert Humbert has become human, very human. Corrupt and haunted by the awareness of his own weakness. What a performance. Shelley Winters is superb, unafraid and bold bringing to life an embarrassing human spectacle. What a performance. Peter Sellers is chilling in all of his Quilty incarnations. Sue Lyon is sublime as the innocent torturer. Stanley Kubrick never made 2 films alike but I'm starting to suspect that as literary adaptations go, this is his finest.
13 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Masterwork of Translation
metaphor-28 March 1999
A significant part of Stanley Kubrick's genius was his ability to translate a literary style into a visual one. It is demonstrated nowhere more brilliantly than in LOLITA and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.

LOLITA is perhaps the more stunning accomplishment, in that Nabokov's style is complex and multi-layered. Yet Kubrick captures the effect of it in camera angles and movements, in timing and point of view.

The broadest layer of Nabokov's novel, the parable of the aging culture of Europe trying to revivify itself by debauching the seductive young culture of America, is really missing in the film. But everything else is there, despite the fact that the film departs from the exact events of the novel.

Not to say that the film depends on the novel. It stands by itself quite easily. But it succeeds brilliantly in conveying the ideas and feelings that are the core of the novel, and it does so in completely cinematic terms. If films are to be based on works of literature, this is the way to do it, and the way it is almost never done.
83 out of 102 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A delicious, adult meditation on youth, obsession and sex.
ags12316 August 2005
This film remains my all-time favorite. It's a delicious, adult meditation on youth, obsession and sex. While not entirely faithful to the novel, it captures the book's spirit and is nonetheless a masterpiece on its own terms. To fully appreciate what Kubrick has done, compare this version to Adrian Lyne's anemic remake.

Kubrick chose his cast wisely for the most part. James Mason conveys both the tormented inner soul and the outwardly polite gentleman with such charm that you simply can't despise him for his treachery. Shelley Winters was never better as the shrill, man-hungry shrew. Sue Lyon is enormously credible in a complex role - physically attractive, childish at times in her behavior, but quietly calculating and manipulative. The weakest link is Peter Sellers, who Kubrick found amusing enough to let him run on too long. Sellers was a brilliant performer, but just not right for this film. As Quilty, he's fine. When masquerading as others, he's mostly intrusive and tends to alter the tone of what's going on.

The need to tread carefully around the censors in 1962 actually works in the film's favor. There's a sophisticated subtlety that counterbalances the lurid subject matter. In fact, I even prefer the edited-for-television version of the scene in which Humbert and Lolita first have sex. Here she merely whispers in his ear before a suggestive fade-out. In the complete version of the film, the scene continues with them discussing a silly game played at summer camp. The less said, the better.

"Lolita" has aged remarkably well. Its topic is relevant today, and the careful craftsmanship that went into this production holds up beautifully. I think it's Kubrick's best film - they tended to get more self-indulgent as time went on. This one's a gem. Not to be overlooked are the aptly provocative title sequence and Nelson Riddle's luscious piano score.
83 out of 105 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Humorous, disturbing, and everything in between!
ACitizenCalledKane3 December 2004
I think Stanley Kubrick was the only director who had any ideas of how to tackle a film version of Lolita. I also believe that he was the only director who could have succeeded, and I believe he did succeed. This film was everything I could have expected it to be, and maybe even a little more.

Shelley Winters' performance was wonderful! James Mason delivered a strong effort in a very difficult part to play. Peter Sellers was Peter Sellers, four or five times throughout the movie, but that's Peter Sellers, and that's why I am really starting to admire his work. The real surprise performance in this movie, however, came from Sue Lyon in the title role. Her intensity was incredible. She seemed perfectly natural as a teenage girl enjoying the attention of older men, or just men in general. You could really see the wheels turning in her head as she schemed her way from one situation to the other. Some have criticized that her Lolita was "too old" in comparison to the novel's Lolita. One could make that judgment, however, what twelve year old actress would have been able to provide the emotional depth required for the part? Let's face it, in literary adaptations, some license must be allowed. All in all, I thought it was a very good movie, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the work of Stanley Kubrick and/or Peter Sellers.
108 out of 144 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of the must see films in the crop of ultra pitch black comedies about male insecurity and youth
MisterWhiplash4 November 2004
I have seen both versions of Lolita now. The 1997 version, directed by Adrian Lyne, certainly has it's merits, and is headed by two very good leads in Irons and Swain. But it is this, Stanley Kubrick's adaptation, that I prefer overall. Kubrick said in an interview after the film's release, "Had I known what I would've had to cut out, I probably wouldn't of made the film." It's a surprising irony though that what had to be suppressed or changed from the book works to his advantage. Like other works under the master's belt, this has some comedy that is so dark that you almost (or do) feel guilty after laughing. The innuendo, even decades later, is still as provocative. And when it gets disturbing, it doesn't go too far over the line. I have not read the book, but I have heard much about it, what was different, and I think Kubrick at least is most successful at infusing his trademark touches to the material.

For starters, there is the acting. Like with for example Full Metal Jacket, the supporting actors somehow outrank the leads. This is not to say that James Mason (Humbert Humbert) and Sue Lyon (Dolores "Lolita" Hayes) are not highly believable in their parts. But in looking at Peter Sellers in his multiple roles via the curious, insanely oddball Quilty, and Shelley Winters as Lolita's mother, they are simply flat-out brilliant (I would choose a better word if I could, believe me). Right from the first scene, which happens to take the last scene of the story in place, Sellers doesn't have me for a second thinking that he isn't perfectly off-the-wall. As was in Dr. Strangelove, his contributions to the project are incalculable. Winters, on the other hand, finds that balance with Mrs. Hayes as a lonely middle-aged woman looking for companionship, though unable to shake her over-protective tendencies.

As for Mason and Lyon, their scenes together are at the least a little overtly melodramatic (which might have been the idea, it may take another few viewings to really grasp the weight of their performances) and at best helps define what the film is about. Mason finds the right notes, if a little anxiously and stuffy at times, in how Humbert is almost like a kid trying to break out of his middle-aged professor image. When he meets Lolita he's awestruck, and falls for her hard, very hard, which sets up what happens to the two of them for the rest of the film. What is even more interesting is how the dynamic is placed with Lolita, who is wiser in ways Humbert is not, and how the sort of idea of mutual youth is tempting, but definitely not everlasting. As the film unfolds it's third act, the film becomes an intense kind of morality tale, where male insecurities are touched upon with Humbert, and even Quilty to a degree. Kubrick, being one of the finest of dramatic character psychologists, hardly skips a beat in making sure not to lose the strange bits (which must be some of the better bits in Nabokov's text) with humor.

Then there is the most rewarding thing of all in a Kubrick film, which is seeing how he photographs the scenes and characters. It holds some of the moves and angles and lighting he's held to for all of his career (some shots show as a precursor to Eyes Wide Shut perhaps), and how the camera stays on the characters in many scenes (actually, almost all the scenes) adds that right tension and space between us and them. If anything else, just watch the film for the sake of watching a film moving and staying put and capturing faces in particular ways. Lolita, in the end, may not be one of my very favorite Kubrick films (though only time and repeat viewings will tell), but it's certainly worth a viewing. Some Kubrick fans may come to this after seeing the essentials like 2001, the Shining, or Clockwork Orange, however it could come as being a favorite in some circles. It certainly is, for my money, as enticing and intriguing a sexual satire I've seen in many a moon.
125 out of 169 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Tasteful and Entertaining
drosse6731 August 2001
Not the two words that came to mind when I first read the book. This movie nicely handles the taboo subject matter and is tremendously funny as well. Peter Sellers was warming up for his triumph in Dr. Strangelove, Shelly Winters gave her best performance, and James Mason made us feel his pain. As Lolita, Sue Lyon is convincing although Kubrick makes her character a bit older (probably to satisfy the censors, which still slapped this with an X rating originally, much to my surprise). The movie could play on TV today with no edits. I have not seen the 1997 remake but can only imagine, given its director with a reputation of going over the top, that it's not as classy and tasteful as this one. Since this was made in 1962, the risque elements from the book were left to our imagination. And the movie scores highly because of it. The movie's story is stuck in the '60s (that bubblegum music, which played during Lolita's early scenes, will stick with you), and if you are bored with the story, or cannot believe what you're seeing, you can always get a culture lesson: Hula hoops, malt shops, pseudo intellectuals, faulty cots and gas stations where they still pump your gas.
49 out of 64 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of the finest films of The Sixties
dantbrooks14 August 2003

Kubrik's version of Nabokov's tale of a middle-aged professor's self-destructive obsession with a young schoolgirl. Making a film that dealt with underage sex was considered impossible in 1962 due to the strict censorship regulations. Kubrik manages to get round this by merely alluding to sexual encounters and subtle wordplay and symbolism creeps into several scenes. He also raises the girl's age from 12 in the novel to 14 in the film. Lolita is also rich in Kubrik's trademark dark humour.

The three central characters of the novel are all portrayed more than adequately in the film; James Mason as the smitten professor, Shelley Winters as the suburban widow with pretensions of culture and Sue Lyons as the young nymphet. However, it is Sellars' performance as the creepy eccentric Clare Quilty (a relatively minor character in the book) that steals the show and, ultimately, makes the film. The opening scene (which is the ending of the film) is an outstanding testament to his talent and versatility. The said scene gives the film the same "circular structure" used by David Lean in "Brief Encounter".

My favourite moments include; Quilty's re-introduction to the film at the school's summer ball as the camera pans across the dancefloor and subtly reveals a look of comic ambivalence on his face as he dances with his lover, Humbert awkwardly trying to book the only remaining hotel-room at the police convention and Humbert again trying to teach the cynical Lolita the joys of Edgar Allen Poe's poetry.

I thoroughly recommend this film. My only complaint is the length - the final third seemed to drag a bit.
56 out of 74 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An unsparring and beautiful film
Blade_Le_Flambeur17 May 2003
One year after Lolita was released, Stanley Kubrick cut his ties with producer James B. Harris after starting Doctor Strangelove., thus only making his own films. Lolita is Kubrick's apparent transition from making money type of pictures (Paths of Glory) to art (Doctor Strangelove. It seems like Humbert and Lolita are the only sane characters while everyone else is sane. As the troubled Humbert, James Mason shines, turning in a performance of emotional capacity that even generates sympathy for him. As Lolita's oddball and energetic mother, Shirley Winters also does very well; creating a sort of hate for her. Sue Lynon plays Lolita with a nice sort of childness, yet at the same time she shows a sort of maturity not usually shown done by an actress of that age. And of course there's Peter Sellers as the eccentric Clarence Quilty, who's downright hilarious and very strange. The script provides fleshed out characters, and at the same time not always letting the viewer know what's going on. Stanley Kubrick's direction is beautiful and cold, letting the viewer have emotions instead of telling them what to feel. Stanley Kubrick doesn't come back to these proffesionall and well- spoken characters until Barry Lyndon (1975). Unfortunately, this film ends up getting repeating and dull. The photography provides a sort of gloss to it that few films have, and also the editing is rapid- fire. 9.5/10
17 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
All in the Environment
tedg27 February 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Lolita is one of the most remarkable books in the world. It has lovely language in many different ways. But that's not what makes it novel. The cleverness, the art is in the shifting stance of the narrator -- sometimes delusional, often hyperdramatic, continuously obsessed with unusual elements of the world. You never know where you stand.

Almost impossible to translate to film, which of course is why Kubrick was attracted to the project. He had done `Killer's Kiss,' which experiments with surpressing the narrative to the cinematic vision. Then he got roped into `Spartacus,' which he hated. It focused on the characters, and the story was overly expository and preachy.

So how to do it? He has to find a place to move the slipperiness of narrative, and he selects to give this job to Sellers. Everything depends on the positioning of the characters. The wife is played by an actress that has the same consciousness in the world as in the film. The kid is a loss, but since we couldn't have a twelveyear old who seduces several, the role is placeholder only.

The whole revolves around us believing that Sellers is a sort of god in the machine. This is a noble experiment, which almost works. Sellers introduces himself as Spartacus from behind the curtain. Then we see how he has manipulated the last several years. He is turned into a filmmaker (to enhance the selfreference), who entices poor Loli into making a film, presumably this one.

I think it may be a long time before viewers can fully appreciate Kubrick's experiments in shifting the story to the vision by clever narrative folds. It all starts here.
35 out of 45 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Both Lolitas are good
Spleen1 September 1999
Someone commented that if you want to acquaint yourself with Nabokov's `Lolita' without actually reading it, the best you can do is to see Adrian Lyne's version. This is surely true. And, I might add, if you want to acquaint yourself with Nabokov's `Lolita' without actually reading it - to hell with you. You don't stand a chance anyway. Humbert's narration cannot possibly make it to the screen in one piece. Kubrick, at least, made no attempt. He even invents his own material, which Lyne is afraid or unwilling to do.

Something about Lyne's authenticity is even shocking. He opens the story in 1947, which is when the story in fact opens - yet everything looks jarringly old-fashioned, whereas Kubrick's indeterminate 1950s setting looks right. The bulk of the story might as well take place in the 1950s as any other time. The crucial point is that the story cannot begin any EARLIER than 1947 - we need a post-war America with motels dotting the landscape. Humbert has little contact with contemporary culture; he only encounters the snippets of music and film that obsess Lolita, and he finds them unendurably vulgar. Kubrick captures this very well. There's this boppy little pop tune we never hear the end of - although most of the time we only hear it subliminally - for the first half of the movie, and it sounds like exactly the kind of tune that drove Humbert up the wall.

Kubrick's cast is a strong one. It's crowned by Peter Sellers as Quilty - and before you complain that we see too much of him, ask yourself what scene featuring Quilty could you possibly want to be removed? Admittedly, since this is 1962, we have a Lolita who is merely sixteen - but maybe this isn't just because it's 1962. After all, the book does two things at once. It makes us understand perfectly why Humbert is attracted to Lolita - we see her through his eyes - while constantly reminding us that Lolita is not someone that we would be attracted to, ourselves. Both are worthy goals, but when it comes time to film the book, the director must make a choice between them. Kubrick picked a genuinely attractive, but still obviously young, Sue Lyon. I can't fault this choice. As for Humbert - well, here Kubrick was actually MORE daring than Lyne was. Humbert Humbert is a sympathetic character who is also calculating, manipulative and - now and then - shockingly brutal. James Mason allows Humbert to be all of these things. This doesn't prevent him from being sympathetic. The story takes care of that.

It comes down to this. What, exactly, does Humbert do that's so wrong? Is it that he has sex with a minor? Considered in itself this is the least of his crimes. What's really wrong is the way he attempts to be Lolita's lover and guardian simultaneously, and, of course, he makes a hash of both jobs. THAT is what's essential to the story of Lolita, and that's what Kubrick transfers to the screen at least as well as Lyne.

Having said that I must add that both versions are very good. They're also different enough to scarcely even be competitors. See them one after the other, if you like.
156 out of 234 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Brilliant--not really the book--but still brilliant
middleburg10 January 2004
What a surreal, dreamlike world Stanley Kubrick creates with this intriguing film! The book, a recognized 20th century classic, is at times disturbing, hysterically funny, uncomfortably erotic, and heartbreakingly sad. The film, made in the 60s, captures many of the same feelings generated by the book--but the censorship

of the time could only allow Kubrick to suggest the more intimate and erotic

aspects of the book--which he slyly succeeds in doing. It is hard to believe now, but when this film was released, it was considered to be unbelievably

provacative and absolutely for adults only.

The movie becomes its own artistic statement---Kubrick doesn't merely try to

recreate the scenes and storyline of the book--although much of it is there--but he uses the period music, speech, clothes and mannerisms to create his own

imaginative and fascinating world. At the same time, we sure do end up caring about the characters. Within the exceptional cast, note the special performance Shelly Winters gives--her character is at once funny and so achingly sad and

pathetic. This is a real tour-de-force of acting. In several instances we go from laughing at her to really disliking her, to feeling so very sorry for her. She creates a truly memorable character.'

The film ranks right up there with all of the spectacfular films Kubrick made during his amazing and very singular career---each of his films was so

distinctive--and Lolita is one of the most distinctive of them all.
67 out of 97 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.'
camcmahon16 March 2005
Having just read Vladmir Nabokov's 'Lolita' for Uni, I instantly wanted to see Stanley Kubrick's rendering of the story. Overall I was impressed by what he had done, but I felt some parts of the film didn't quite work. Firstly, although i think Sellers is a great actor and I love him in everything I've seen him in I just couldn't get comfortable with his role here. When reading the book I had a totally different vision of Quilty, so I found it hard to readjust to Seller's performance. Although his acting is great and hilarious as always, it just didn't fit into the plot for me.

I thought James Mason was good, and he played the gradual disintegration of Humbert Humbert with an intensity which i enjoyed. However, i felt that the film did not reveal as much of his character as the novel portrays. The name Humbert Humbert suggests two sides to his nature, and I felt that too much emphasis was placed on his suave and intelligent side, and not enough time was devoted to his burning desire and passion for Lolita. I particularly missed one of my favourite lines that was not used in film, 'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.' Although i haven't seen the film in a long time, I think Jeremy Irons from the 1997 version is a much better actor for the role.

Sue Lyon made a great Lolita, although she did tremble on the line between looking young enough for the role and looking too old for it. Still, there were times in the film where she looked so young the odious nature of Humbert's act really struck me. Speaking of this, I felt the film skipped past too much of what really went on between Humbert and Lolita. Although Nabokov similarly leaves this to the reader's imagination, I thought a little more could have been done to stress the nature of Humbert and Lolita's relationship.

Shelley Winters was brilliant, and her acting added so much to the character of Charlotte Haze. I thought she was wonderful; she really fleshed the character out.

Overall, I did enjoy watching this film despite the small niggles I had with it, but I view it as something separate to the novel. In this way it's a more enjoyable experience. I'm looking forward to seeing the 1997 version of the film again (I saw it once years ago!), as I think it is a movie that will benefit much more having been made in a time of a more permissive society, allowing more creative freedom in what can be shown.
18 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Kubrick in a subtle mood
Atavisten30 June 2005
The excellent novel turned into a screenplay by Vladimir Nabokov himself is one of the best movies Kubrick did. Due to censorship some things were let out, the better for it I say. Sue Lyon as Lo leaves nothing to be desired, her confidence and rebellion is convincing. James Mason is perfect as Humbert Humbert, his way of calculating, concealing his intentions and the way he tries to control Lo's life struggles its best with the sympathies you get for his lonely soul.

And Peter Sellers provides the comedic element as well as suspense. When confronting Humbert at the hotel it was almost as tense as when Rugosjin confronted Raskolnikov in 'Crime and Punishment'.

Kubrick shows his mastering of storytelling here. We don't need background on Humbert as we see his intentions in his actions. And what a way to start the movie!
14 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
How DID They Make A Film Out of 'Lolita'?
theriddler20 July 2003
Lolita has been one of my favorite novels for quite some time. Ive always felt that it was one of Nabokov's best and that the portrayal of Humbert and Lolita's affair was truly touching. I put off seeing the movies for quite some time, because I knew that they probably wouldn't live up to my expectations. However, I finally gave in and rented Kubrick's version. I went into the film with an open mind, and came out dissapointed.

The film has alot of problems-surprisingly, many of them can be traced to it's script, which was written by Nabokov himself. Perhaps he should have stuck to writing novels. The main problem was characterization. We are flung into the plot of the story immediately, with almost no background given to Humbert Humbert. In the book, nearly 50 pages lead up to his meeting Lolita, describing his pedophilic tendencies, his previous sex life and attempts to stifle his true preferences. In general, we come to sympathize with the monster that is H.H. However, in the film, we are given no time to get to know Humbert Humbert. He is a flat character. I think the actor had little to work with, although his choice of accent for a primarily French man was unusual and annoying. Moreover, in the book the storty is told from the POV of H.H., allowing us to understand his obsession. In the movie, its told from an impartial outside silent narrator. This is a huge problem.

Before I continue, I should note that a problem that was not the filmmaker's fault was the censors. The film is about a novel about pedophilia. There isnt any point in making the movie if you cant make the movie about pedophilia. The censors dont allow even a mention of H.H. and Lolita's love affair- its very strange. Had I not read the book, it would take me probably nearly half the movie to figure out even the inklings of their growing affections for eachother. Its ridiculous to try and make a movie about a subject that you cant...make a movie about! The tagline says it all: How did they make a movie out of Lolita? I dont know, they barely did.

One of the worst things the censors did was make Lolita 14 rather than 12 as she is in the book. Her fragile childlike nature in the novle is transformed into a ridiculous teenage whininess. The character of Lolita is barely recognizable. In the book, Lolita is barely entering puberty. She is cheeky and affectionate. She never truly seduces Humbert Humbert, and maintains a childlike innocence throughout the beginning of the novel. The most heartbreaking part of the story is how her innocence is slowly destroyed by H.H., despite his best intentions. In the movie, Lolita is manipulative, seductive, annoying, obnoxious, and OLD. She is not the innocent child in the book. Her and HH's relationship is mostly them quarreling. It gets annoying.

Overall, the movie was a decent attempt at a film and a terrible attempt at an adaptation of Nabokov's brilliant novel.
15 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A different story
cj135811 August 2013
It's a good movie, actors' performance is decent, jokes are funny and so on... But it's not that "Lolita" I was desiring to see. It's just an ordinary movie, not that thing I expected to be made by such a master as Kubrick. We watch a very usual story with a bit of suddenness. Moreover, it is a very different story.

Lolita's attitude to Humbert is too positive, she is kind of cold to him in the book, if speak about her in a few words. Her actions seem illogical in the movie. Especially the final one, that very disappearance with the "uncle". Seventeen years old Lolita, aka Mrs. Schiller, doesn't differ from the "previous version" anyhow, even though she was a different person in the end of the book, after all this sadness and hardship she mentioned. I remember that very moment in the novel when Lolita calls Humbert "honey" during their last talk. It was kind of flash of warm and joyful light for me then. I nearly felt it. THAT was HOW she changed. All in one word - that's the power of Nabokov's pen or whatever he wrote with. Movie awakens no feeling that can be named similar. At least Lolita's character doesn't.

Humbert was a handsome man, a gentleman of Old Good Times in the book. He was attractive in many ways. And he was confident, and he was nearly almighty with his knowledge, charm and abilities. Movie's Humbert evokes only pity. I don't say Mason is bad, it's just not his character or his strange view of the role.

Charlotta is all wrong in the movie. She's this kind of nearly village woman with her poor manners and behavior. She acted in a different way in the book, she was a woman of different qualities, who wouldn't scream and shout as mad in presence of anyone she wants to have good relationships with, for example.

Plot is cut, events are mixed. I can't understand why Kubrick decided to make a movie by this novel. He failed in bringing "Lolita" to the screen, yet he succeeded in making a good film.
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Kubrick's film misses the mark
joannefaulkner_199911 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
While performances in this film were very good (especially Shelly Winters), I was disappointed over all. I don't think a film should necessarily be exactly like the book, because celluloid and text are different media, producing different effects in the audience. However, the differences in this film that mattered were, I think, down to direction. What didn't come across in the film was the emotional and moral ambiguity of the story, and the film failed the story in this respect especially in Lolita's final scene, as Mrs. Richard Schiller. Reading the book, I was impressed with the way Nabokov portrayed Lolita here as a little more grown up, but more fragile than before (ie. less defensive), and so practical. It really underscored Humbert's unconscious intimations of her unhappiness during their time together, and that her vulgarity was a cover for her emotional fragility. Her final scene in the movie presents her as the same scheming Lolita, and fails to convey the tenuousness of her situation, in what she is asking of him.

Secondly, I was disappointed with the casting of James Mason who, although a fine actor, was too old for the part. Humbert in the novel was 37 or 38, and I think this is an important factor again in the ambiguity of the story: this is not some middle aged lecher, past his prime. Humbert is at the height of his attractiveness, and is a charming man who has virtually everyone fooled--but for Clare Quilty, and this is because he is 'like' Humbert, in a sense even his alter-ego; the 'happier' (or less conscience burdened) face of pedophilia.

Thirdly, the scene with the psychologist was not Quilty in the book, but a middle aged (and very serious) woman, and I think that substitution played an important role in distorting the essence of the story. In the book, this scene serves to impress upon the reader the impact of Humbert's dalliance with her upon her psycho-sexual development: that she was in fact regressing in her development, and retreating into a sexually latent stage rather than one of sexual awakening. That there were signs like this told a lot about her situation (that, as Humbert himself admits, he had broken her), but also heightens the sense of danger, that people are starting to sense something's not quite right about them. The substitution of Quilty into this role, on the other hand (and especially in the form of farce), detracts from this depth, and makes Lolita seem more calculating and informed than she perhaps was. This again is enforced in the direction of her final scene, where she recounts Quilty's role in a way that humiliates Humbert.

All in all, the film makes Lolita look far more like a 'player' than she was, and in this sense reinforces Humbert's interpretation of her, without undercutting his perspective with unconscious slips in the clever way that Nabokov had achieved in the novel. I haven't seen the more recent version with Jeromy Irons, but I have a sense that it has made more of an effort to deal with the moral/emotional ambiguity of the story than Kubrick's version did.
23 out of 33 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Best Lolita ever
moviola-216 January 1999
An excellent film that has Kubrik's name stamped all over it.

We see how the skillful Director is able to translate and adapt the book to reach a bigger audience and become a timeless Classic.

Rather than worry about truly reflecting the book on the silver screen, Kubrik changes and experiments with the screenplay to obtain a refreshing, intellectual and fun version of the boring Nabokov's novel.

The Master of Directors shows also great skill in his precise direction of the well selected star cast.Who would challenge that Sellers is precisely the hyperactive, witty character who could undoubtedly seduct a young teen. Could there be a better fit to Lolita's mother than Shelley Winters, who conveys so well the impression of being the desperate, lonely widow?

Even James Mason IS the perfect sexually repressed, intellectual pervert, who tries to hide so well his persistent, hypocritical thoughts and desires behind that mask of academic honorability.

In conclusion, this is not a replacement for the book. It is also true that to bring the book to life a boring multi-part mini-series would be necessary. This is, however, a better screenplay than the one we saw on the 1997 version.
33 out of 51 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Classic version of "Lolita", Sue Lyon may have been playing herself.
TxMike28 November 2002
I was a senior in high school in 1962 when Kubrick's "Lolita" was in theaters. I did not see it back then. Now, having lived for an additional 4 decades, I can appreciate it more anyway. The genius in Kubrick's direction is to let us, the audience, see clearly what is going on, while the players cannot. Sue Lyon played the coy Lolita so well, but when you read her biography and see that she had a series of short, failed marriages after this film was made, you have to wonder if her performance was so good because she was playing a character not far from herself. But the real star is Peter Sellers, playing Clare Quilty. Overall a fine movie depicting how unreasonable and blind obsession can cloud the thinking of otherwise reasonable and educated people. Here it was a man, but we certainly have not cornered that fault.

After viewing this movie, I read Nabakov's book. It is much more revealing (no surprise there) as to how Humbert made an elaborate justification in his mind that is was OK for a man in his late 30s to have a sexual relationship with a girl in the 10 to 14 year old range, finally having one with Lo when she was 12. It of course is much more explicit in describing their passion and activities. Now I too am a bit surprised that the book was ever made into a movie.
19 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An unbiased review of the worst Kubrick film I've seen
tonysharp17 May 2008
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 jumped 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 James Mason? 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 5 out of 10 because it wasn't entirely awful. There were moments when Kubrick's trademark directing and cinematography sparkled through, but, overall, I was extremely disappointed.
11 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"Well, I sort of lay there in pain, but I love it. I really love it. I lay there hovering between consciousness and unconsciousness. It's really the greatest. " - Clare Quilty
Michael Margetis31 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
What a controversial film this little flick called 'Lolita' was back in it's day. It's day was 1962, and during that time there wasn't a lot of lenience in the MPAA. Researching about this film, I found they were threatening to give it an 'X' rating if they showed any sexuality or expressions of sexuality between the middle-aged Humbert Humbert, and the breathtakingly beautiful young teenager, Lolita. This would be absurd by today's standards (the film would be able to earn a 'PG-13' at the worst if it was released today.) The movie was deemed so inappropriate and obscene, that little Sue Lyons (who played Lolita) wasn't allowed into the movie premiere of 'Lolita' because she was under age. Now, that's a load of crap, even for the 1962 era standards. Audiences were just so much more uptight back then, and we may have been like that today, if it wasn 't for the brave souls to spoke and acted against this like Stanley Kubrick, when he made the film idea of 'Lolita' into a reality.

'Lolita', based on the risqué love story novel by Vladimir Nobokov (who also provided the film's screenplay), follows a middle-aged novelist, Humbert Humbert (the late great James Mason) who is looking for a place to rent out for a couple months while he begins writing his new novel. He eventually finds a place, a house with a room up for rent. The house belongs to Charlotte Haze (Shelly Winters), a middle-aged widow who has an eye for Humbert, but that's the problem. Charlotte has a 14-year-old daughter who Humbert becomes immediately madly in lust with. Humbert eventually marries Charlotte, only to get close to Lolita so he can have his way with her. Charlotte is oblivious to this, and Humbert and Lolita start up a relationship (non-sexual) and Humbert realizes he becomes in love with her, and not just in lust with her. Humbert thinks he's got everything figured out how to be with her, but he has some competition with Charlotte's ex-boyfriend, a famous television game show host, Clare Quilty (the late and especially great Peter Sellers), whose also madly in lust with young innocent (well seemingly innocent) Lolita.

'Lolita' is a great film, but it's not one of the genius Mr. Stanley Kubrick's best films. The acting is sensational in 'Lolita' with extraordinary performances all around. James Mason is marvelous in the lead role as the conflicted Humbert Humbert. Mason perhaps provides one of the most powerful and hard to play roles in his career. Numerous Oscar winner Shelly Winters is undeniably brilliant as Charlotte Haze, she really does a lot with her role, and she stands out in the scenes she's in. It's a damn shame she didn't even get an Academy Award Nominee for this. Sue Lyon does a pretty good job as Lolita, and after this I'm not sure she did much else. The real stand-out of the film is of course, Peter Sellers. You know, he was just so perfect for the role of the sex-hungry weasel that is Clare Quilty. Instead of playing the tricky pedophile with creepiness and anger (like most people would), he riskily plays it funny and with a sense of likableness, that only an actor with such exquisite finesse and genius like Peter Sellers could do. Peter Sellers was one of his time's greatest actors, and he really steals every scene he is featured in, in Kubrick's 'Lolita'. Vladimir Nobokov's screenplay is wonderfully well-written (staying close to the novel), and Stanley Kubrick's keen direction is nothing short of meticulous, neat, beautiful, and bold. The film has shortcomings though, too. It's way overlong, and there are some dry scenes here and there. Although it wouldn't be as true to the book (and Kubrick is a stickler about that), I think cutting the film down to a more reasonable run time then 2 hours and 32 minutes, would have been a good move.

If you haven't seen the 1962 original version of 'Lolita', it's a definite must. Most people prefer the newer version with Jeremy Irons and Frank Langella, but it's so inferior to Kubrick's version. The recent version may have more sex scenes and more things to sigh in disgust and disapproval over, but the old version, Kubrick's version, is so much more better acted, better directed, better written, and overall more nicely put together then Adrian Lyne's newer film adaptation of Nobokov's novel (not to say Lyne's version is bad, it's good but just not as good as Kubrick's version.) The 1962 'Lolita' is more of a film that would be admired then liked. Most people probably wouldn't be too into it today, but for it's time it was one hell of a risky and well-made picture. That being said, 'Lolita' might have lost some if it's quality with age, but it's sure still great film from one of the best filmmakers to ever walk the earth, Stanley Kubrick. Grade: B+

17 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Kubrick makes you despise yourself
Jithin K Mohan6 December 2017
With characters that appear sympathetic at the beginning and turning more and more despicable as the film goes on and showing the unstable mental condition of the main character without throwing it at your face, Lolita manages to keep you uneasy throughout the film. Kubrick's attempt in dark comedy is highly successful here which he will perfect in a much more comedic Dr Strangelove. Lolita could have been a much more complexly woven tale if not for the censorship of the time. From what I've heard the original novel is much better and a lot are omitted here which makes this looks like more sided with the character of Humbert but the way I see it Kubrick have made the audience uneasy and to an extent made them despise themselves for sympathising with these characters by the end of the film. He never wants everything to be too black and white which is what I believe he tried to implement here as well.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
frankwiener20 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Whether the film is faithful to the classic Nabokov novel or not, I would like to read the book in order to compare the two and to determine whether the printed version is as enjoyable as the movie. I recently did this with the "Cider House Rules" and, after struggling through 600 pages of the most graphic depictions of very detailed human anatomy, as well as the gloomiest of characters and locales, I should have let well enough alone, but I will always crave apples of all varieties for the rest of my life, and an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But I digress.

Aside from Kubrick's excellent direction, what makes this film succeed are its well chosen cast, its sharp and thoughtful screenplay, its interesting locales, and its musical score. James Mason's brilliant portrayal of Humbert Humbert transforms an ordinarily, dull professor into a fascinating, psychologically complex character as he is gradually consumed by his infatuation with Lolita, a fourteen year old girl who eventually becomes his step daughter. Shelley Winters, cast once again as an unpleasant and often whining matron type with a grating, irritating voice ("Night of the Hunter", "Place in the Sun", "Patch of Blue", and the list goes on and on and on), perfectly fits the part of sexually frustrated Charlotte Haze, who is Lolita's overbearing and obnoxious mother. While several other reviewers did not appreciate Peter Sellers as Quilty and as several disguised characters who stalk Humbert and Lolita during their road trips, I found him to be very entertaining and don't believe that the film would have held my interest as much without him. I love how he throws himself into that German accent and the characters who accompany it. A whimsical, unpredictable Quilty sharply contrasts against a dead serious, humdrum Humbert, so an explosion is inevitable.

As to Sue Lyon, I found her to be exactly as she was in "Night of the Iguana" without much of a variation--very cute but aloof and, for the most part, emotionally detached from everyone and everything around her. Yes, she cries when she learns of mother Charlotte's fate but not for very long. That was how she was supposed to play the role, and she performed it very well. Once in receipt of her urgently needed inheritance, what are her last words to a shattered, destroyed Humbert, "I hope that we can see each other some time!" or something like that.

While I found Bob Harris's "Lolita Ya Ya" theme song annoying and can't blame composer Bernard Hermann for not wanting to have anything to do with it, I thought that Nelson Riddle's score was otherwise quite beautiful, strongly enhancing the drama on the screen.

I'm always curious about film locations, especially when they contribute significantly to the overall atmosphere, as is the case here. Although nearly the entire film is supposed to take place in New Hampshire and in Ohio, it was actually filmed in England, Rhode Island, and the Albany, New York area. In case you were wondering, Lolita's ramshackle neighborhood at the end of the movie is located in Rensselaer, New York with a view of Albany, the state capital city in the background.

While there supposedly aren't as many double entendres and word plays as in the novel, they pop up quite often in the film. Of course, Mr. Swine would be a friend of Quilty's. Why would we ever doubt that? Did you get the one about Quilty's uncle who was Lolita's dentist and who needed to fill her cavity? Oh, never mind.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Kubrick misses the point of Nabokov's classic novel
Erlend G7 March 2016
"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.".

Few novels can claim to have a better introduction than Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel. 'Lolita' was the Russian's love letter to the English language - a masterpiece in every sense. The topic would leave critics, who were yet to recover from the "shock" of the Catcher in the Rye, startled. The tagline of Kubrick's adaptation (NB! Nabokov never wrote the screenplay) was, and still is, "How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?". I'll tell you how - by removing most controversial aspects from the movie.

The first mistake of the movie was changing Lolita's age from 12 to 16 years old. Understandable, but fatal. Sue Lyon's's otherwise flawless performance is underwhelmed by the fact that she isn't controversial enough. Lolita was supposed to be a novel exploring the darkness of a sexual predator, an active paedophile. Kubrick's film is a dark comedy, where crucial moments of the story are replaced by slapstick jokes.

The cast of the movie poses further problems as well. While Shelley Winters shines as Charlotte Haze, James Mason is allowed to take the wrong directions throughout the movie. His character, Hubert Humbert is a sexual predator in the original novel, but both James Mason and Stanley Kubrick re-imagines the character as somewhat likable fellow who "just loved Lolita". This is wrong on so many levels. Peter Seller's, whom the movie mistakenly begins and ends with, is allowed to run rampage, as if Stanley Kubrick couldn't physically restrain him from the set. Seller's, a brilliant actor, is given too much focus (adding up to the ridiculous run-time of 2 hours and 32 minutes), and his presence undermines Mason's character completely.

If one were to exclude the novel completely, 'Lolita' can be considered a decent film. Certainly not amongst Kubrick's finest, but a film with fine cinematic qualities nevertheless. Clever scene transitions with the help of cinematographer Oswald, and a catchy theme from Bob Harries makes parts of the movie enjoyable.

I give 'Lolita' 6/10 stars, in other words - average. Kubrick was never known for making good adaptations (Stephen King hates The Shining), and this is a testament to one of his few flaws.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews