A Landmark Look at Lust in Criterion Collection's 'Lolita'

Not all new laser releases feature special supplementary audio tracks with director's or actor's comments. Often, some that just present the film in crisp picture and sound transfers that preserve the original material in well-defined sound and picture are worthy of attention.

Long before audiences began obsessing on Woody Allen's love life, there was Vladimir Nabokov's landmark look at a professor's longing for the pre-pubescent "Lolita." The novel, published in the United States amid swirling publicity, was optioned by director Stanley Kubrick and producer James B. Harris. Nabokov himself did the highly original adaptation for the screen. What ultimately became the film version in 1962 owed less to Nabokov's screenplay and more to the emerging director's ingenuity and invention in getting around the era's Production Code.

The Criterion Collection edition (digital sound, two discs, 152 minutes, black and white, extended play (CLV), $70) does full justice to the film; it was, in fact, supervised and approved by Kubrick, and it shows. The richly detailed black-and-white print features tour de force performances by James Mason as the consumed Humbert Humbert, Shelley Winters in one of her finest roles as Lolita's twit of a mother and Peter Sellers as the odder still Clare Quilty. Sue Lyon, who at 13 photographed much older, deftly obscuring the emerging nymphet's age, makes her film debut.

The Nelson Riddle music and the discreet Oswald Morris cinematography are well-served in this edition, which has narrow letter-box banding, offering the original split-format aspect ratio for the first time, according to Criterion. Also offered is the salacious original theatrical trailer.

While closer in spirit to Hitchcock's "Vertigo," Brian De Palma's 1975 "Obsession," with its intense Bernard Herrmann score and a script by Paul Schrader, serves up yet another preoccupied male--Cliff Robertson, haunted by Genevieve Bujold. The letterboxed Pioneer laser disc (98 minutes, 1 disc, extended play (CLV), digital sound, $45) may not be as all-consuming as "Lolita," but watching the director develop his craft is a lesson in itself. The laser disc offers one of the best-looking prints of any De Palma film yet released on video.

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