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  • Widescreen 1.66:1
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 84.34)
  • English: Dolby Digital Mono
  • French: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Mono
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  • Theatrical trailer
Lolita (1962) (Remastered)
Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 147 mins . M15+ . PAL


Back at the start of the 1960s, Stanley Kubrick was best known as the guy that took charge of the mammoth 1960 movie production of Spartacus and guided it to completion; suddenly, Kubrick a director was attracting a great deal of studio attention, as word got around about his innovative earlier low-budget films. All that attention meant that he could pick and choose the project he would work on next; in hindsight, nobody should have been especially surprised when he chose to film Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel Lolita. Published by a small company and greeted with howls of outrage, Lolita was always going to be difficult to transfer to the screen. Kubrick’s solution was to hire Nabokov himself to rewrite the story as a screenplay (which Kubrick reportedly then drastically altered himself) but in the moral climate of the early 1960s, Lolita was always going to tell its story by implication rather than taking a literal approach (unlike director Adrian Lyne’s 1997 version). Kubrick turned Lolita’s story of unhealthy sexual obsession into a black comedy. The story, consequently, plays out at times like a high-camp soap opera, albeit one with a sinister undercurrent.

British university professor Humbert Humbert (James Mason) is about to start a new posting at a college in Ohio, and on his arrival in America he takes up lodging for a time at the New Hampshire house of a widow named Charlotte Haze (Shelley Winters) who takes an immediate liking to the somewhat staid professor; Humbert, however, takes an immediate liking to Charlotte’s young daughter Delores - nicknamed Lolita - and quickly becomes obsessed with her, even marrying Charlotte just so he can stay in the vicinity of her daughter. When Charlotte meets an unfortunate end, though, Humbert becomes Lolita’s guardian, and they set off on a journey across America together, their relationship becoming more and more confused along the way. And when a mysterious man named Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers) starts constantly appearing, Humbert’s paranoia and delusions start to take over completely…

Ironically, the strict censorship code of the time (Kubrick had to recut the film prior to release to appease moral crusaders) means that any intimation of an improper relationship between Humbert and Lolita has to stay off the screen, the true nature of the relationship only hinted at. Because of this the film plays as lighter fare than it otherwise might have, but as the story unfolds that changes. The cast is terrific - James Mason is perfect as Humbert, Shelly Winters suitably histrionic as Charlotte and newcomer Sue Lyon approaches her character with the right balance of playfulness and suggestion. Peter Sellers, meanwhile, steals every scene he’s in.

Predating Kubrick’s full-scale plunge into unashamed visual style (that would happen with his next film, Dr Strangelove, though there’s no shortage of cinematic skill at work here) and so coy about its subject matter that it seems almost quaint at times, Lolita is a curious and very odd film that never takes itself especially seriously.


Filmed in black and white, Lolita is presented on DVD in a pristine new transfer at a 1.66:1 aspect ratio (it’s not 16:9 enhanced). And it looks stunning - the image quality throughout is sharp, detailed and extremely well balanced, belying the fact that this film was shot 40 years ago. It’s an extremely successful remastering job that does leave one small problem visible - any shots containing a dissolve (and there’s quite a few of them) seem to have been transferred from an inferior source, and as a result you’ll see some scratches and other film damage on scenes leading up to a dissolve - and, curiously, a “shift” in the image right after the dissolve, the image immediately clean and faultless but slightly differently aligned to that of the dissolve. This happens quite frequently, but it’s not as distracting as you might think; as a whole, this is a wonderful video transfer. The layer change on this dual-layered disc is almost invisible thanks to its intelligent placement.

Audio is mono, of course, and is sensibly encoded as a Dolby Digital 1.0 stream as all mono audio should be. You won’t be expecting hi-fi sound quality from this film, but the audio here - taken from a tape master rather than off a film print - is surprisingly clean and problem-free. Nelson Riddle’s bizarre and very ‘60s score is rendered cleanly as well.

Extras are limited to a one-minute trailer (quite amusing and VERY dated) and a single “awards” screen listing Sue Lyon’s Golden Globe win and Nabokov’s Oscar nomination.

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  •   And I quote...
    "...a curious and very odd film that never takes itself especially seriously"
    - Anthony Horan
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