Lolita (1962)

lolita poster 1962 movie stanley kubrick
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Fun and loaded with smart sexual innuendos

A bit long

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Lolita

Studio:  A.A. Productions Ltd./Anya/Harris-Kubrick Productions

Genre(s):  Comedy/Drama

Release Date(s):  June 13, 1962 (Premiere)/September 6, 1962 (London)/

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

lolita delores haze cherry pie

Perhaps it was the cherry pie

Humbert Humbert (James Mason) has a new desire.  He’s rented a room in the home of widowed Mrs. Haze (Shelley Winters) and her fourteen-year-old daughter Delores Haze (Sue Lyon).  Humbert has a secret; it isn’t Mrs. Haze that he is in love with but her daughter.  When the ignorant Mrs. Haze decides to move Lolita away from him, Humbert marries her.  Tragedy strikes, and Humbert ends up on the road with Lolita.  His love for her grows, but lurking in the background is someone named Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers).  What is his connection to Lolita?

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, Lolita is a dark dramatic comdy.  Adapting the 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov, many felt the movie couldn’t be made (the tagline for the movie was “How did they make a movie out of Lolita?”), and Nabokov was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.  Following Kubrick’s epic Spartacus in 1960, the movie was met by mixed reviews but has since seen critical success.

lolita clare quiltypeter sellers humbert humbert james mason

Oh, Quilty….you…weird…weird…weird…guy

What people might not realize going into Lolita is that Lolita is played as a comedy.  The novel does have a ton of humorous aspects to it, but it is still more dramatic than the film.  Most of the humor in the movie involves the skirting of the issues that could not be mentioned in 1962.  The relationship between Humbert and Lolita can’t really be said, so it is more of innuendos and really smart wordplay (something the book often did also).  Kubrick stated that he wouldn’t have made the film if he had known how many problems he received from censors.

The movie has the same weird sexuality that Kubrick’s other film Eyes Wide Shut has.  It is very progressive and aggressive in the script despite the censors.  There are innuendos of swingers, partner swapping, threesome, homosexuality, and of course the main theme of pedophilia.  The film is loaded with oblique references to sex and sexuality way before its time but nothing is really seen.  It is the smart writing that helps this film stand the test of time.

lolita delores haze sue lyons humbert humbert james mason

Who is using whom?

The movie is also aided by great acting by the entire cast.  Mason as Humbert Humbert is slick and sick at the same time.  In the novel, he’s even more cruel and manipulative of Lolita (while not realizing that Lolita is the manipulator).  Sue Lyons won the role after a ton of other actresses were considered (Hayley Mills allegedly was up for the role but Walt Disney didn’t permit it…that would have been interesting).  Shelley Winters is great as the obnoxious and nagging Mrs. Haze.

The fourth major character (who is elevated from the novel) is Clare Quilty by Peter Sellers.  He’s creepy and perverted with his strange girlfriend.  He hits on Humbert and others in a twisted sick way.  Like in the novel, you don’t really get how he’s playing into the situation but the movie makes the jump of having Humbert kill him at the beginning of the story…I almost would have preferred it like the novel where at the end, you get the big reveal.  Sellers, however, is great and played the character with a lot of fun like he often approached his roles and like in Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, he plays multiple characters.

lolita adult delores haze sue lyons

Clearly I’m an adult…my hair is up

Lolita is a great film by a great director.  If you’ve never seen it, check it out, you might be surprised by the direction the film takes and how it is presented.  The choice to do it in black-and-white is an odd choice and I would have loved to see Kubrick dive into the Technicolor world of movies like Leave Her to Heaven and Written on the Wind since that is the world that Humbert Humbert is constructing in his mind about his relationship with Lolita…but it does give an older feel to a more modern movie.  How did they make a movie out of Lolita?  You have to watch to see.  Kubrick followed Lolita with Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb in 1964.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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