9 Groundbreaking Movies. 10 Discs. One Visionary Moviemaker. SPARTACUS (1960) The genre-defining epic tale of a bold gladiator (Kirk Douglas) who leads a triumphant Roman slave revolt. LOLITA (1962) Academic Humbert Humbert (James Mason) is obsessed with a blithe teen (Sue Lyon) in a dark comedy from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel. DR. STRANGELOVE (1964) “Accidental” nuclear apocalypse, anyone? Peter Sellers heads the cast of one of the most blazingly hilarious movies of all time. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) “The most awesome, beautiful and mentally stimulating science-fiction film of all time” (Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic). A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) Future world neo-punk Malcolm McDowell becomes the guinea pig for a government cure of his tendency toward “the old ultraviolence.” BARRY LYNDON (1975) The visually spellbinding tale of an 18th-century Irish rogue’s (Ryan O’Neal) climb to wealth and privilege. THE SHINING (1980) In a macabre masterpiece adapted from Stephen King’s novel, Jack Nicholson falls prey to forces haunting a snowbound mountain resort. FULL METAL JACKET (1987) Marine recruits endure basic training under a leather-lunged D.I., then plunge into the hell of Vietnam. EYES WIDE SHUT (1999) A wife’s admission of unfulfilled longing plunges a Manhattan doctor into a bizarre erotic odyssey. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star.
When director Stanley Kubrick released his film adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel about a hopelessly pathetic middle-aged professor's sexual obsession with his 12-year-old stepdaughter, the ads read, "How did they ever make a film of Lolita?" The answer is "they" didn't. As he did with his "adaptations" of Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange, and, especially, The Shining, Kubrick used the source material and, simply put, made another Stanley Kubrick movie--even though Nabokov himself wrote the screenplay. The chilly director nullifies Humbert Humbert's (James Mason's) overwhelming passion and desire, and instead transforms the story, like many of his films, into that of a man trapped and ruined by social codes and by his own obsessions. Kubrick doesn't play this as tragedy, however, but rather as both a black-as-coffee screwball comedy and a meandering, episodic road movie. The early scenes between Humbert, Lolita (a too-old but suitably teasing Lyons) and her loud, garish mother (Shelley Winters in one of her funniest performances) play like a wonderful farce. When Humbert finally fulfills his desires and captures Lolita, the pair hit the road and Kubrick drags in Peter Sellers. As the pedophilic writer Clare Quilty--Humbert's playful doppelgänger and biggest threat--Sellers dons a series of disguises with plans of stealing Lolita away from her captor. It's here more than anywhere that Kubrick comes closest to the novel. He extends Nabokov's idea of the games and puzzles played between reader and writer, Quilty and Humbert, Lolita and Humbert, etc., to those between filmmaker and audience: the road eventually goes nowhere and Humbert's reality is exposed as mad delusion. Perhaps not a Kubrick masterpiece, or the provocative film many wanted, Lolita still remains playfully fascinating and one of Kubrick's strongest, funniest character studies. --Dave McCoy