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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
'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+
MADE MY TOP 300 LIST AT #251
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.
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.