Humbert Humbert, a British gentleman and emigree haunted by a lost childhood sweetheart, falls in love with his landlady's precocious pre-adolescent daughter and dreams of a future with the two of them together. When Vladimir Nabokov's not only highly controversial but literate, layered, and thought to be unfilmable novel was billed to the public as a film adaptation in 1962, it came with the tagline "How did they ever make a movie out of Lolita?" And yet it was remade again 35 years later, though under much more relaxed censoring conditions. Stanley Kubrick's initial version (with a script credited solely to Nabokov) is pristinely filmed in black and white, with James Mason as Humbert and Peter Sellers (whose role in the book as the chameleon like, and equally lecherous Quigley got an upgrade in the movie) both extraordinary. However, the film's ending is soapy and offers too many explanations. Adrian Lyne's 1997 remake is probably (after hesitating to say and again given the times) the superior film version. Although, in contrast, the film is too explicit, it cuts closer to the essence of Nabokov's novel, contains pristine cinematography, and features an ideal Humbert in Jeremy Irons.
1962 version: *** 1/2 out of ****
1997 version: *** 1/2 out of ****