- Acting of Lead Performers
- Acting of Supporting Cast
- Music Score
- Title Sequence
- Historical Importance
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Was Nabokov's book about obsession, lust and pedophilia, undeniably so. The 1962 Kubrick film version with James Mason as Humbert Humbert, Sue Lyon as Dolores Haze (Lolita), Shelley Winters as Charlotte Haze, and Peter Sellers as Clare Quilty, was quite tame by comparison to the novel. Sue Lyon was 14 at the time of filming (2 yrs older than the books Lolita). Despite the controversial subject matter, the movie was a box office success. The 1997 Adrian Lyne film version was more faithful to the novel, but a box office failure, both in the U.S. and abroad. It featured Jeremy Irons as Humbert, a 16 y.o. Dominique Swain as "Lolita", Melanie Griffith as Charlotte, and Frank Langella as Quilty. Despite the faithfulness, and fine acting talent in the 2nd, for entertainment I much prefer the 1st. However, I have long imagined an even more "perfect" casting for Kubrick's masterpiece. "I like my scotch old, and my women young." Errol Flynn, "I'm far too old for her. But sadly, she's not too young for me." The Last of Robin Hood (2013). Errol Flynn (1909-1959) would have made a perfect Humbert. And the young actress Beverly Aadland (17 at the time of Flynn's death in 1959), could have been a perfect "Lolita". Flynn had a lustful obsession for this little nymphette who was only 15 when their relationship began and was consumated. If this movie could have been made in 1958, a 16 y.o. Aadland (albeit a little old for Nabokov's Lolita) and her then 49 year old real-life lover, Flynn, would have made the perfect protagonists for Kubrick's movie version of Nabokov's provocative novel. And as for the casting of Quilty, either James Mason or Peter Sellers would have still worked! Would that movie have made money? With Flynn's reputation, combined with the taboo subject matter of the novel, you bet! Heck, such a success may have even given Flynn a few more years to revel in the limelight of playing himself on screen... or maybe not. Still that is a film that I wish could have been.
It was an ok movie
I watched this movie after reading many of the comments here. I didnt find it to be offensive or racy, even though I am sure it was at the time it was made. I do have to admit the "old" man made my stomach churn a time or two, perhaps remembering similar things from my younger days. But all in all, I found it to be an interesting story and think Shelly Winters played such a great part as the mother. Its not one I would make a point to watch again, its a bit drawn out, but it was ok.
Flawed film version of classic novel....
- John S
While the acting is fine (Winters deserved the Oscar she received), the film drags. Nor is this only Kubrick's fault, since Nabokov co-wrote the screenplay. They wrote in so many cameos for Sellers that it interferes with the plot and lengthens the film annoyingly. Worth seeing, though, if you don't find the book too offensive...
No, I won't "relax!
I'd like to respond to reviewer, Rick, below. All art - film, painting, sculpture, etc. - is subjective and we are all entitled to our own opinions. What one person finds entertaining is not true for all of us. As for this film, it makes my skin crawl. Lolita is a highly sexualized spoiled brat of a tween who gets what she wants by using her sexuality and her dominatrix bent to coerce the men she meets into indulging her. Sue Lyons was perfectly cast and does an excellent job as Lolita but her career was ruined by her starring in this film. Many young actresses of the day refused the role or their parents refused to have their daughters play this role. Many great actors of the day - Lawrence Olivier, for one - would not accept the role of Humbert for fear it would ruin their careers as well. James Mason is very good here but he's much better in other roles he has played. No matter how you choose to couch this film, it is the subject of rampant pedophilia that is overarching. This film, because of the censorship issues of the day, omits much of the less savory aspects of the 12 year old girl and her liaisons with men thrice her age. Much has changed in our world since 1962 when this film was released but our aversion to pedophilia has increased as we have become more aware of it. I for one hope that doesn't ever change!
Many better 1962 films
- John Kennedy
This is not the "best" film of 1962. Better candidates are: "To Kill A Mockingbird", " Lawrence of Arabia", "The Miracle Worker", " Manchurian Candidate", etc.
Those of you who are offended by the pedophilia portrayed in this movie,can't appreciate the entertainment value in the acting and storyline.You all need to chill out..its entertainment.geez.
Flawed but brilliant and original
- Graham Thomas
Yes, Kubrick was in love with Sellers (Dr. Strangelove....), but James Mason hoists this. How did he not be nominated for an Oscar? The scene in the bathtub is brilliant.
A celebration of Pedophilia if there ever was one! Why this is not recognized by present day reviewers/critics is beyond me. A rather disgustingly, yet sickly fascinating film nonetheless...
The most interesting part of this movie and describes it accurately is the camp's name that Lolita is sent off to: "Camp Climax"---no I am not kidding.
Kubrick's adaptation of Nabokov's novel. Mason and Sellers excel in their roles as two different pedophiles vying for Lyon's nymphette, Lyon won a special Golden Globe for the film. Nabokov's Oscar-nominated adaptation of his novel raises Lolita's age and manages to be funny and remains as erotic and obsessive as his story within the Production Code. Nabokov's use of language and Kubrick's direction made this unfilmable movie of one the director's best. I give it a 4.5/5.
This one held my interest, so much that I didn't want to take my eyes off of the screen. I"m very interested in movies of this era and it was cast extremely well and was extremely intriguing.
The best film of 1962!
I've always been a big fan of older movies and movies that dare to be controversial! This movie tops the bar and is better then the book of which I have read! If you are looking to see or buy a movie that dares to be bold, outspoken, and different from the time period of which it was made, this is it! The acting is phenomenal and each scene leaves you begging for more! The cast is made up of a fantastic group of wonderful actors. James Mason and Sue Lyons chemistry is unbelievable and keeps you asking yourself if they are truly a couple off screen! The script is wonderfully written and terrifically acted out! If you have this movie on your mind to buy, please do so and right away! Its money spent well! Hope you get to see it and enjoy it as I have!
A pig with nice eyelashes and ruby red lipstick
- Jeff Boston
Degenerate gunk in almost every way presented in elite art house fashion.
Overall-4 1/2 out of 5Lead Performers-4/5Supporting Cast-5/5Director-5/5Score-4/5Titles-3/5Screenplay-5/5Cinematography-5/5Importance-4/5Recommendation for fans of the genre-4/5
A good first attempt
- Movie reviewer
I found this version of Lolita to be disappointing and underwhelming. I agree with what Robert Osborn said on The Essentials: Peter Sellers was thrown into your face way too much in the movie. He portrays Claire Quilty who is supposed to be a mysterious element and character in the story for both the audience and Humbert Humbert. But with him so frequently there it just makes Humbert seem stupid for not noticing his appearances. I did not enjoy the final scene with Lolita; she seemed bitter, spiteful and unforgiving to the man who sexually abused her, and perhaps rightly so. But when I read the book she seemed more forgiving and understanding, not at all angry at the man who was her Step-father. I understand that the sensors made it difficult to film such a risque book and thought that they got past it beautifully. The black and white made the movie more beautiful and more sensual in a way, and the other three actors in the movie (Sue Lyon, Shelley Winters, and James Mason) were fabulous, but I still only give it two and a half out of four stars.
A con job
Would anyone pay attention to this movie if not for Kubrick's cult following? In my opinion, James Mason should have elevated Sue Lyon's performance, but instead he sunk to the level of hers. I think Peter Sellers's clowning turns this into a parody. Is this what Kubrick intended? Was he perhaps surprised that so many took this movie seriously? "Dr. Strangelove" was far less subtle, so maybe that's a clue.
An engaging film...
I think the film very aptly conveys what is conceptually disturbing about Nabokov's story - we expect innocence from Lolita because of her age, and yet the adults in her world (who use her selfishly for their benefit) turn out to be gullible, desperate fools. Had the actors failed to deliver excellent and convincing performances, this film would have ended up an awkward, off-putting mess. Instead, it's an engaging story that manages to punish the bad guys without coming across as preachy. James Mason especially shines in that last scene: as he cries uncontrollably and hands over all his money to Lolita, you know you don't like Humbert, you know he deserves his fate, but you can't help pitying the broken man he's become. Even after all these years, "Lolita" hasn't lost its provocative edge.
Lolita was fascinating
- Leslie Stavrowsky
I saw this movie for the first time tonight, and found it fascinating. To me, this was a movie about a man's obsession with a young girl. The main theme was human obsession, not pedophelia. I thought James Mason, Shelley Winters and Sue Lyons were at the very top of their acting game - they could not have been better. It was a pleasure to see them totally embody their characters. I was struck again and again with how suberbly Shelley Winters played her character. Lolita's mother was completely real and completely herself, and hilarious in her attempts to be a sophisticated intellectual. Her human loneliness got to me, and I sympathized with her. On the other hand, the Mason character was often not real and often put on a phoney front, and the showed the lengths a man would go to when so obsessed and so jealous. I did not dislike the man, because Mason also captured this person's humanity so well, someone essentially good but completely driven and broken by his obsession. He did not play a person I admired, however, because he lost all his integrity in the phoney game he played with Lolita's mother. I completely agree with Robert Osborne in that Peter Sellers was over-used in the movie, and seemed a bit out of place in this particular movie, with all his wild characterizations. Those characterizations would have been perfect for a comedy, but this movie was not essentially a comedy.
Great James Mason Role
Would not have watched this with any other star.Hated Clare Quilty,whatever his purpose.
Drew Barrymore and Robert Osborne disagreed tonight over the overuse of Peter Sellers by Kubrick. It seems Osborne wants this to be more of a melodrama, but I think that misses the tone of the novel. Quilty is a surreal character who is kind of an alter-ego for Humbert, both his nemesis and his guilty conscience in pursuit of both Humbert and his child-lover. No ordinary actor but Sellers could have filled that essential part the story. In fact, the novel was full of comic-ironies sprung by Quilty on Humbert, and I'm sure this was Kubrick's intent by letting Sellers improvise. Drew also realized correctly that the humor was essential to the 1962 film to give the audience 'permission' to enjoy the sordid storyline.
Cao Yu's play "Thunderstorm" (1933) and Lu Xun's novel "The True Story of Ah Q" (1921) were never banned in Asia, perhaps Lolita is a mistake for a ban book.
Oh So Bad :)!
Naughty. Love Sellers.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) is different because they are more conniving self-controlled (against their preys), they fill you out a moron otherwise they tell you deserve to die!
Murder he wrote
The novel was banned in Paris in the 50s, maybe it ought to continue to be banned! Murderous, Nabokov's revenge at the world that disappointed him! Charlotte is Nabokov's nymphet, the muse but matrimony fails both. Vengence keeps Humbert speculating at Charlotte's appeal, and lolita answers! The ravishing charm. Charlotte is dying with the parished body, she pleads at destiny and Humbert vows to take her life for a fair end to her unequal aesthetics. They wrestle at the war against death and wither. Humbert reflects at his own his spiritual appeal of Clare Qulity, who fails to walk away from the shadow of Lolita, fear of losing his gift for losing her. No answer, death and the novel that would narrates at the end of the protagonists, the same question for searching a new clue. Vulgar at the novel because Humbert's wrath, it is not about sex or flesh!
Lust drives you, Sellers keeps you
- Bill Watkins
In the book it was, "Lust drives you, the interior monologue, struggle, and journal entries that keep you:)"
How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?
- Tony E
Humbert Humbert is a man transfixed by the beauty of a young woman. Seducing her, even to the detriment of her mother, seems justified. Kubrick walks the line of decency (even in today's society) attempting to tell this tale without being censored. Quilty steals the show in his disguises, but seems out of sync with the rest of the movie. Lolita does not come off as overly moralistic and is quite enjoyable simply as a remarkable showing of what innuendo can do.
Impossible film to make
The book contains so much more richness and detail about why Humbert is the way he is. But I think the movie captured much of the spirit. Somehow Mason managed to make the character sympathetic, pathetic, broken, and understandable, while Sue Lyons portrayed Lolita as the vamp who took advantage of him (not vice versa). Shelly Winters was fearless in her role as Lo's mom. ARHG. I never felt so embarrassed for a woman. I think it's full of irony and black as night humor. If you find it offensive, imagine Humbert as the stand-in for Old Europe and Lo as America. I totally agree with Alec Baldwin regarding Peter Sellers - unnecessary and distracting in his role as Quilty, but Kubrick's to blame. As Mason indicated in his autobiography, Kubrick was besotted with Sellers and couldn't get enough of him.
Hilarious film, fantastic acting
The "reviews" here are a little simplistic and a lot moralistic -- funny enough, that's exactly the kind of people this movie so brutally lampoons. The hyper-religious, hard-drinking, gun-cherishing dimwit Charlotte (played to utter perfection by Shelly Winters) is so insufferable, and so familiar, it's painful to watch. Nabokov (screenwriter who also wrote the novel) is merciless but dead-on and hilarious in his depiction of Americans. Never has contempt for an entire people been so hilarious as it is in this movie. Peter Sellers is completely magnetic, esp. in the opening scene -- you can't take your eyes off him. Sue Lyon as Lolita is knowing, but one could wish for a younger girl. Mason is brilliant. This is a great film and cuts like a sharp knife, ow!
Don't forget the acting
- Mike E.
Everyone seems to be fixated with Humbert and his moral (read immoral). As an ex-high school science teacher I've been in his situation. The difference is that I kept my thoughts and hands to myself. I think he was obsessively IN LOVE with the girl despite the comments by Kubrick. Why would he be so overbearingly protective if all he wanted is to have her in bed? A truly lustful person would only care if he/she could have his/her way with her. Who cares about the football team? Think he was in love. I think Sue Lyon was superb. Maybe it was Kubrick's direction or she was just being herself but the interaction between her and Mason was startingly realistic. Not the cardboard characters we were inundated with then and and still are today. So there.
Humbert was SCUM!
I stumbled across this movie due to Shelly Winters who is one of my favorite actresses. The movie was done tastefully but there is no other way around it, HH is scum. A grown man lusting after a teenage girl is downright NASTY, no matter how you put it. I know there are lots of girls like Lolita that kind of put it out there but someone needs to be the adult. Charlotte shouldn't have committed suicide, she should have shot him and then showed the police his diary. When I was about 14, a friend of our family did his best to get me and everytime he came near me my skin would crawl. Most young girls that age are disgusted by old men unless they have daddy complexes.I like the movie but I abhor pedophiles.Quilty was SCUM too.
Humbert Humbert - Very Complicated
- Bruce Reber
HH was planning to do away with Charlotte Haze before she was hit by the car. He married her, but he was really obsessed with her nymphette daughter Lolita. His ongoing frustration at being unable to get her in the sack, and when she tells him it was Claire Quilty that deflowered her, it makes him go off the deep end and kill Quilty. According to the epilogue, Humbert himself died while on trial for murder. If "Lolita" had been made in 2009 instead of 1962 I'm sure the relationship between HH and Lo would have been way more explicit.
why why why...cut...?!?
WHY did tcm cut the fabulous scene of the approach to the car accident...?!? The cut is palpable.
This film is well made but left me conflicted due to the fact that it was so tame that it made it seem as if Humbert was fallin in love instead of in lust. That is a tough thing because by being too tame, it makes it seem as if the main character was doing something "kind of bad" as oppossed to the later version of this film which was more risque' and depicted Humbert as what he really should be, which is a sick and perverse. This is not Kubrick's fault, but more the fault of the censors & standards of the time. All in all, the film is a good Kubrick film, however, not his best.
"Intelligent non-brainwashed male"
mean cmon on what grown intellegent non brainwashed male hasnt had a lolita fantasy?"Hilarious. I read and enjoyed the book (which was actually different from Kubrick's movie on at least a few levels). I am a 21 year old woman and enjoyed the book and can admit it was a "sensual" guilty pleasure and the language was beautiful. Humbert is still not let off the hook....he was still nauseating, even if he was occasionally (and in the end of the novel, especially) sympathetic. That's part of what made the novel so fascinating--it's narrated by someone who's obsession is considered taboo for more reasons than simple "hand-wringing."But no--it doesn't legitimate the notion that old men drooling over little girls as kosher (great example, using Africa....really a bastion of rights for women and children). Something tells me even Nabokov himself would refer to your sentiment as he referred to Humbert--"hateful." The sad thing? With the exclusion of the "intelligent" part, I agree with you about the seeming inevitability of men lusting after girls young enough to be their daughters.Some of that may be unavoidable--sexually harassing or starting a sexual relationship with someone who may only be mimicking sexual maturity shouldn't be. "Intelligent non-brainwashed male"....Obnoxious.I guess the alternative to the "INTELLIGENT MALE" you describe is a man with some control over his testosterone and impulses, and has a little perspective on the power and maturity imbalance between kids and adults sexually?
Look inside yourself
John, I hope you have a daughter one day. Then you'll know how Emily feels. You're the type who condemns someone for watching this movie (so they can make an informed comment); but if the person said they didn't watch it all, you'd condemn them for that. I think you just want someone to say that your thoughts toward young girls are ok, when you know they aren't.
Lolita and most of Nabokov's other works are satires. I think that Kubrick does an excellent job of transferring Nabokov's sardonic wit onto the big screen.
never read the book, stumbled upon the movie
- john d
and was blown away... i mean cmon on what grown intellegent non brainwashed male hasnt had a lolita fantasy...the girl in the movie was 16 (played a 14 year old) IN AFRICA 16 YEAR OLD GIRLsD ARE WORKIN ON THERE 3RD BABY!!!..anyway, this film is brilliant, and really has kind of an unexpected ending...GO see it!!! im a movie buff, seen thousands of films from the first half of the milenium on up, and this 1 falls in my top 10, a feet that hasnt happened in over 10 years..
Uptight hand wringer
Emily sounds like the typical midwestern pseudo-religious hypocrite, "oh my!" so tell us Emily if you are so uptight why did you watch it?Emily and her kind are the ones who are Sick, Sick, Sick!
sick sick sick
Even with no explicit scenes due to the censors of the 60s, this movie is sick, sick, sick. I was particularly horrified with the aspect of the film that is described by Kubrik in this quote; "I wasn't able to give any weight at all to the erotic aspect of Humbert's relationship with Lolita; and because his sexual obsession was only hinted at, it was assumed too quickly that Humbert was in love". Whether Lolita was 14 in the movie or 12 years old in the book, Humbert Humbert's 'relationship' with the girl was sick, sick, sick.