Movies and TV shows are Certified Fresh with a steady Tomatometer of 75% or higher after a set amount of reviews (80 for wide-release movies, 40 for limited-release movies, 20 for TV shows), including 5 reviews from Top Critics.
Years after the film's release it has been released on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-ray. It earned $3.7 million in rentals in the USA on VHS.
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The movie retains the novel's theme of Quilty (anonymously) goading Humbert's conscience on many occasions, though the details of how this theme is played out are quite different in the film. He has been described as "an emanation of Humbert's guilty conscience", and Humbert describes Quilty in the novel as his "shadow".
After refusing to attack an enemy position, a general accuses the soldiers of cowardice and their commanding officer must defend them.
An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically try to stop.
Humbert Humbert (James Mason) enters, picks his way around, strokes the harp, and circles to the large inner room. He appears to be stalking his prey, calling out for "Quilty, Quilty" (played by Peter Sellers). A bottle placed on a drape-covered easy chair falls to the floor. Hidden under the sheet-covered armchair like a shrouded, corpse-like figure, the mansion's owner suddenly stirs:
"How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?" With great difficulty!
An Irish rogue wins the heart of a rich widow and assumes her dead husband's aristocratic position in 18th-century England.
Charlotte: (casually) In fact, I remember when the late Mr. Haze...yes, he's passed on. But, uh, when we were on our honeymoon abroad, I-I knew that I'd never felt married until I'd had myself addressed as seniora (she clicks her fingers above her head). Humbert: You're in Spain? Charlotte: No, Mexico.
Projected in Nabokov’s screenplay as “a silent shadowy sequence which should last not more than one minute,” the murder of Quilty becomes a painfully funny ten-minute-long nightmare in which the straight man kills the clown, who “jigs and ambles” to the end. It begins when Humbert asks, “Are you Quilty?” At which Sellers wraps himself in a sheet as if it were a toga and says he’s Spartacus, a sly reference to Kubrick’s previous picture.
Kubrick’s Lolita was being made during the Kennedy inauguration and the building of the Berlin wall. It hit American movie screens the summer before the Cuban missile crisis. The nuclear brinksmanship of the Cold War would send Kubrick and Sellers into the endgame black comedy of Dr. Strangelove. Meanwhile the Beatles and Stones were tuning up. Here come the sixties.
Lolita will be shown on TCM on September 21 at 5:15 p.m. The DVD is available at the Princeton Public Library.
The name "Lolita" is used only by Humbert as a private pet nickname in the novel, whereas in the film several of the characters refer to her by that name. In the book, she is referred to simply as "Lo" or "Lola" or "Dolly" by the other characters. Various critics, such as Susan Sweeney, have observed that since she never calls herself "Lolita", Humbert's pet name denies her subjectivity. Generally, the novel gives little information about her feelings.
Humbert fires with the gun - the bullet penetrates through one of the boxing gloves, grazing it and striking a bottle behind Quilty. Nervously, Quilty reasons with Humbert in a mock piano recital - in a frantic attempt to distract him and find a way to escape being hunted:
This voice-over is a part of Humbert's narration, which is central to the novel. Kubrick uses it sparingly and apart from the above comment, only to set the scene for the film's next act. Humbert's comments are generally simple statements of fact, spiced with the odd personal reflection.
Lolita's age was raised from 12 to early teens in the film to meet MPAA standards. Kubrick had been warned that censors felt strongly about using a more physically developed actress, who would be seen to be at least 14. As such, Sue Lyon was chosen for the title role, partly due to her more mature appearance.
Lolita premiered on June 13, 1962 in New York City. It performed fairly well, with little advertising relying mostly on word-of-mouth; many critics seemed uninterested or dismissive of the film while others gave it glowing reviews. However, the film was very controversial, due to the hebephilia-related content, and therefore while many things are suggested, hardly any are shown. The film has been re-appraised by critics over time, and currently has a score of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.
A man marries his landlady so he can take advantage of her daughter.
—Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov, who wrote the screenplay for the film, turned in a script that ran 400 pages and called for a seven-hour film. Kubrick and producer James Harris had to alter it significantly. The unused screenplay deviated from the novel and featured a Hitchcock-like cameo for Nabokov, who is referred to as “that nut with a butterfly net.” He later published the complete script in 1974 as Lolita: A Screenplay.
Humbert explains that the smell and taste of youth filled his desires throughout adulthood: "that little girl with her seaside limbs and ardent tongue haunted [him] ever since". He thus claims that "Lolita began with Annabel" and that Annabel's spell was broken by "incarnating her in another".
Far more satisfying than his later works (one hesitates to call them mere movies).
The picture has a rare power, a garbled but often moving push toward an off-beat communication.
Humbert: Do you recall a girl called Dolores Haze? Quilty: I remember the one guy, he didn't have a hand. He had a bat instead of a hand. He's... Humbert: (He bangs on the table loudly with the paddle to get Quilty's attention) Lolita!?
—Actresses considered for the role of Lolita include: Tuesday Weld, Hayley Mills, Joey Heatherton, and Jill Haworth. Lolita Author Vladimir Nabokov agreed with Kubrick that Sue Lyon was right for the role, but years later stated that Catherine Demongeot would have been the ideal Lolita.
Quilty: Wha? Wha? What's that? Humbert: Are you Quilty? Quilty: (spoken with a lisp) No, I'm Spartacus. Have you come to free the slaves or somethin'? [An inside joke, a clear reference to Spartacus (1960), Kubrick's most recent film.] Humbert: Are you Quilty? Quilty: Yeah, I am Quilty. Yes, sure.
Humbert begs Lolita to leave her husband and come away with him, but she declines. Humbert gives Lolita $13,000, explaining it as her money from the sale of her mother's house, and leaves to shoot Quilty in his mansion, where the film began. The epilogue explains that Humbert died of coronary thrombosis awaiting trial for Quilty's murder.
Set in the 1950s, the film begins in medias res near the end of the story, with a confrontation between two men: one of them, Clare Quilty, drunk and incoherent, plays Chopin's Polonaise in A major, Op. 40, No. 1 on the piano before being shot from behind a portrait painting of a young woman. The shooter is Humbert Humbert, a 40-something British professor of French literature.
The most hysterical high-profile response to the literary timebomb called Lolita came, predictably, from the New York Times’s Orville Prescott, whose August 18, 1958 tirade (“dull, dull, dull” “repulsive,” “disgusting,” “fatuous,” “tiresome”) ends by suggesting that Humbert Humbert’s “ravaged brain belongs to the psychiatrists and psychoanalysts, not to novelists.”
The film was a commercial success. Produced on budget of $2 million, Lolita grossed $9,250,000 domestically. During its initial run, the movie earned an estimated $4.5 million in North American rentals.
The film was nominated for a number of awards, including an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and won a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer which went to Sue Lyon.
Obviously a rudimentary provincial, she is ignorant that in pairing the names of the doctors, they are both not well-known physicians. A sardonic Humbert is polite to her, but he detests her vacuous, trying-hard-to-impress chatter, cheap intellectualism, and 'artist' name-dropping, and at one point walks out of the frame of view. She attempts to praise her 'quaint plumbing' as proof of old European values, to tempt him to stay:
Back here, we have the kitchen. That's where we have our informal meals. My pastries win prizes around here!
—Kubrick wanted James Mason for the role of Humbert from the start, but he initially turned it down due to a previous Broadway engagement. Other actors considered the role: Laurence Olivier, Errol Flynn, Peter Ustinov, and David Niven.
Four soldiers trapped behind enemy lines must confront their fears and desires.
The film is deliberately vague over Lolita's age. Kubrick commented, "I think that some people had the mental picture of a nine-year-old, but Lolita was twelve and a half in the book; Sue Lyon was thirteen." Actually, Lyon was 14 by the time filming started and 15 when it finished. Although passed without cuts, Lolita was rated "X" by the British Board of Film Censors when released in 1962, meaning no one under 16 years of age was permitted to watch.
The slave Spartacus leads a violent revolt against the decadent Roman Republic.
The only other one of these reflections which makes reference to Humbert's feelings towards Lolita is made after their move from Ramsdale to Beardsley. Here Humbert's comment seems to show only an interest in her education and cultural development: "Six months have passed and Lolita is attending an excellent school where it is my hope that she will be persuaded to read other things than comic books and movie romances."
I'm not accusing you, Captain, but it's sort of absurd the way people invade this house without even knocking...They use the telephone..
As a Kubrick film... virtually everything it does well was done better in his filmography.