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United Kingdom 1962
Directed by
Stanley Kubrick
153 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Lolita (1962)

James Mason who is well-accustomed to playing romantically tragic characters is eminently suited to represent Vladimir Nabokov's infamous hero, Humbert Humbert (the role was originally offered to Cary Grant who understandably passed), though the novel's elegant eroticism, is largely lost in this tidied-up albeit still controversial screen version.

Kubrick's screen adaptation, which makes Lolita a fifteen year old instead of a shocking twelve as she is in the book preserves little of the delicious wit of the original text, admittedly a near-impossible task. The original script was allegedly by Nabokov himself although apparently it bears little resemblance to the version which was later published.

Sue Lyon, who was 16 years old at the time plays the titular object of  desire, is mis-cast having no visible allure that would attract Professor Humbert's lecherous tendencies (unfortunately for both her and us, Tuesday Weld turned down the role) whilst Peter Sellers' Quilty, who appears, characteristically, in multiple guises gives Nabokov's story too much of a comic/absurd twist. Shelley Winters, however, is excellent as Lo's stridently smothering mother. The American release is a minute shorter than the English one, the scene where Humbert is eyeing Lo's portrait whilst embracing her mother on the bed being limited to one brief glance.

The film was re-made in 1997 with better results by Adrian Lyne.




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