I had heard a lot about this film, but had never seen it until an airing on TCM. I am a huge fan of Shelly Winters and was actually quite disappointed in her role in this film. I felt it was contrived and had very little substance. You almost began to dislike Mrs. Haze and I felt myself “rooting” for Professor Humbert and his goal to win over Lolita. James Mason was great in this film and showed emotion throughout, both that of desire, and of anguish. When Lolita disappears, the scene in the hospital was one of the best.
Sue Lyon was very good in this film. She had the ability to come across as the young teenager, with all the mixed emotions that go with that, as well as her confusion as to her feelings and desire for her mother’s husband. As a vixen you got the feeling that she knew exactly what she was doing and was going to get exactly what she wanted. Her performance later in the film, as the older married Lolita, was not as compelling or believable, but overall I think she gave the best performance in the film.
As far as the role of Peter Sellers as Clare Quilty, he have the incomparable performance that only Peter Sellers could. However, I felt his character in the film was unnecessary, and think the film would have been better if his character was more like in the book, behind the scenes, and more of a mystery. This role gave the film a comedic feel that took away from the films story and would have been better left on the cutting floor. No disrespect for Sellers as he was amazing, I just think Kubrick should have had this character less in the forefront of the story and more on the sidelines as in the book.
Due to the censorship in Hollywood in 1962 this film fell flat for me, as it never really was able to portray the relationship between Humbert and Lolita and walked around the actually storyline. Even Kubrick himself said if he would have known the role the censors would play in this film he never would have made it. The film was enjoyable, and I am gald I finally got to take a look at this classic. Now to try and find a copy of the 1997 remake.