Filmsite Movie Review
Lolita (1962)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Backstage on the night of Beardsley High's Thespian's first presentation of "The Hunted Enchanters," [the name of the play corresponds to the name of the hotel where Humbert first possessed Lolita] Lolita wears gaudy, garish stage makeup and is costumed as a fairy-tale princess with a tiara on her head - appropriately, a nymph. Clare Quilty (with a camera) and Vivian lurk in the wings. After Lolita exchanges a glance with Quilty, she makes her entrance onstage and delivers her lines to conclude the play as she escorts a goatish man: "Let us take him to the dark kingdom...To the dark kingdom - away. Away." As the actors and actresses are taking a curtain call, Mrs. Starch (Shirley Douglas), Lolita's flirtatious piano teacher, compliments the proud father for Lolita's dedication to the part, mentioning that it was helpful that her piano lessons were suspended for four weeks. This is a surprising discovery for Humbert, and he drags his duplicitous daughter out of the auditorium rather than permitting her to attend a cast party: "Our little starlet has had enough excitement for one evening...(sarcastically) I wouldn't want you to miss any more piano lessons! You know what I'm talking about!" As they leave, Quilty instructs Brewster, his aide, to go and get some film for photographs: "some Type A Kodachrome!"

Still in her 'kept woman' costume with greasepaint on her face, Lolita is forcibly brought yelling and screaming into the house and thrown onto the couch, as Humbert worries about all the noise she is generating: "Let go of me! You're hurting my arm! You let me go, you jerk! Let go of me!...You've got a big fat nerve dragging me away like that!...Who the heck do you think you are - not letting me go to my cast party? I wish the police do come in here. You creep!" Now an infuriating bitch, she sulks on the couch and then argues with him about differing accounts of her whereabouts - in her account, she was attending extra rehearsals. She accuses him of being "sick" and "imagining things" about her relationship with her co-actor.

As he strokes her arm - and she surreptitiously blows bubble gum in her mouth - he takes some of the blame for being fed-up with her, and suggests that the strain can be alleviated by going away on a long trip with her:

It's partly my fault, I realize that. It's something that's happened on account of this horrible place. All these people poking their nose into our business. And I never see you anymore what with your soda-fountains and your extra-c...(she pops her gum) STOP DOING THAT! If we could leave this place perhaps. Yes, there's there's nothing to keep us here. We haven't any obligations here...We could just pack up our bags - TONIGHT! We could go now. I could take you for a wonderful trip around the country!...Don't you want to get back to where we were before we came to this horrible place? Don't you want to come away with me?

Realizing that he is completely unrealistic and jealous of her personal time, she screams back a hateful, piercing response:


He believes that she has been seeing a "filthy boy," calling her "a horrid little psychopath." He threatens: "You're not gonna see these filthy boys anymore, I can tell you that." She resists him:


A knock on the front door from the neighbor Miss Lebone (Marion Mathie) to complain about the noise brings a halt to the domestic quarrel. Lolita takes advantage of the situation and leaves the house, while Miss Lebone gingerly advises: "Well I think I ought to tell you that the neighbors are beginning to get a little curious about you and your little girl...You know how people talk."

Humbert runs down the dark street, spotting Lolita as she hangs up the phone in a telephone booth at a nearby gas station. [She has just hung up on Quilty, who has encouraged her, for the time being, to depart with Humbert.] There's been a sudden reversal in her character and mood, and she sweetly apologizes to her relieved father about how she has completely changed her mind:

Listen, I've decided something...I want to leave school...I don't want you to be mad at me anymore. Everything's gonna be great from now on...I hate school and I hate the play. I really do. I never want to go back...Let's leave tomorrow. We can go for a long trip and we'll go wherever I want to, won't we?

As they drive westward down the highway in the station wagon, Humbert narrates, in voice-over:

The brakes were relined, the waterpipes unclogged, the valves ground. We had promised Beardsley School that we would be back as soon as my Hollywood engagement came to an end. Inventive Humbert was to be, I hinted, chief consultant in the production of a film dealing with existentialism, still a hot thing at the time. (As they drive through a town, a black car pulls out and begins following them.) I cannot tell you the exact day when I first knew with utter certainty that a strange car was following us. Queer how I misinterpreted the designation of doom.

As they proceed through a barren western landscape, the deranged Humbert begins driving faster to escape from the car that has been following them for three days. Lolita complains about his wild swaying and careening car: "You're gonna get us killed. What's the big fat hurry anyway?" Humbert suspects: "I think he's some kind of a cop." He quizzes her about the stranger she was talking to in a car at the gas station. Just as he thinks he's lost the other car, their tire blows-out with a BANG and the car spins out of control. The mysterious car in pursuit slowly pulls to a stop about 100 feet back from their car - they both speculate:

Humbert: (in a paranoid mood) He can't help us if he's stopping way back there like that. He can't be the police because if he were police, they'd just draw up beside us and start writing a ticket...Maybe it's a special kind of police who are just supposed to follow people.
Lolita: Yeah, like the vice squad.

Lolita dissuades him from getting out of the car, walking back, and speaking "face to face" with the driver: "It might be dangerous." As they continue talking, the car behind them does a U-turn and disappears. Both of them aren't feeling well. Humbert's arm is in pain, and Lolita feels "lousy" and "all achey" - she guesses it's the symptomatic onset of "the Asiatic flu."

When she is hospitalized in the nearest town to convalesce from her illness, Humbert visits her carrying a gift of flowers and some books for her to read [a romantic poetry book, The History of Dancing, and James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man]. He finds a suspicious note on her table thought to be written by one of Lolita's male admirers - he is chagrined to learn he is mistaken - the note was written by the nurse's boyfriend. Lolita is exasperated and rebukes him, and then notices how feverish he appears - he is also sick [physically and psychologically] and on the verge of catching a cold:

Do you have to antagonize everybody?...What's the matter with you anyway? You look kinda slimy.

Humbert is asked to move his illegally parked car from the staff's parking lot to the visitor's parking lot. But there is a new issue he must first address - he is vexed by the discovery of a mysterious pair of dark sunglasses: "Since when have nurses worn dark glasses when on duty?" Annoyed but obedient, Humbert bids Lolita goodbye - she directs his kiss away from her lips and turns to offer her cheek instead.

Back in the hotel room where he is staying, Humbert, now very sick and shivering, is awakened from his sleep under a heavy comforter in the dark room. A unidentified, anonymous telephone caller [Quilty in his third impersonation of the film as the thought-police] rouses him in the middle of the night from a sweating sleep - Humbert is annoyed by the sex police investigator's intimidating questions:

Hello. Is this Professor Humbert?...How are you Professor?...I was just wondering if you've been enjoying your stay in our lovely little town...It doesn't matter what my name is. It's really obscure - an unremarkable department, you see, is sorta concerned with the bizarre rumors that have been circulating about you and that lovely, remarkable girl you've been traveling around with...with all this traveling around you do, you don't get much time to see a psychiatrist regularly, is that right?...You are classified in our files, professor, you are classified in our files as a white widowed male. I wonder if you'd be prepared to give our investigator a report, Professor, on your, uh, current sex life, if any...!

Humbert terminates the call and frantically returns to the hospital at 3 am, speaking to the night nurse Miss Fromkiss. He dashes in and expects to release Lolita immediately. Without the doctor's express permission, the nurse insists that he must first speak to Dr. Keygee. He reacts: "What is this? A prison or a hospital?" She broadcasts the doctor's name on the loud intercom to summon him: "Calling Dr. Keygee!" Coughing, sweating, and sick, Humbert meets the tall, white-coated doctor: "Well, how long have you had that cough, Mr. Humbert?" To his surprise, he is told that Miss Haze was discharged earlier that evening at 8:15 pm.

In a nightmarish scene, he struggles his way into the hospital corridor toward Lolita's room, wrestles with Lolita's nurse (who happens by), and is tackled and subdued by two husky attendants as he hysterically shouts: "WHERE IS SHE? LET GO OF ME!" While grappling with them, the nurse is fearful of his behavior: "Doctor, this man must be psychotic." [A confirmation of Quilty's cruelest wishes.] When Humbert learns that Lolita left with her "uncle," he fights back even more and is sent sprawling on the floor toward the camera. A strait-jacket is suggested as a way to calm him down and prevent a "serious disturbance."

As he lies flat on his back on the floor, pinned down by the attendants, he is further questioned and defensively back-pedals when they threaten to call the police - he appeases them by explaining that he just forgot about the uncle:

Humbert: You don't know my brother Gus. He's very easy to forget.
Black attendant: He's drunk. That's what's the matter with him.
Humbert: Yes, that's right. I've been drinking much too much. I have personal problems, you understand? (The doctor examines his pupils with a bright flashlight.)
Doctor: Would you like some black coffee or something?
Humbert: (with typically British understatement) No, not now thank you. I-I really ought to move on now.

He is released from their grasp to go home. As he limps away, he hopelessly turns back and sorrowfully asks: "She didn't, by any chance, leave any message for me? No, I suppose not." Sad piano music rises on the soundtrack. A melancholy, forlorn, defeated figure in the hospital hallway, he slowly moves away from the camera toward the door in the distance. The screen turns to black.

Many years later, an off-screen, unseen Lolita laboriously types a hand-pecked note to her step-father. In a close-up of the typewriter keys and the words which are revealed one at a time, she concisely gives him information and facts about what has ensued and her purpose in writing:

March 19th
Dear Dad,
How's everything? I have gone through
much sadness and hardship. I'm married.
I'm going to have a baby. I'm going
nuts because we don't have enough to
pay our debts and get out of here.
Please send us a check.

Trumpets and drumbeats signal Humbert's drive through an industrial city's slum area. He passes by many two-story frame houses, a car junk yard, and then pulls up in a lower-class area to park. Before leaving the car to march through the gate up to the brick house, he removes Harold Haze's "Sacred Weapon" from the glove box and stashes it in the pocket of his mouton-collared coat - for revenge. The mailbox is labeled: Richard T. Schiller. At the door, Lolita greets him: "Well! Gee! What a surprise!" Without makeup, she is wearing black harlequin glasses and an ugly maternity smock to cover her six months' pregnancy - he replies after a long stare: "So this is what Mrs. Richard T. Schiller looks like!" She excuses herself for admitting that she needs money:

I'm afraid you'll have to excuse my appearance, but you caught me on ironing day. Do come in. Gee, you're looking marvelous...I wrote to you about a week ago. I was beginning to think maybe you were sore or something. I must say, I wouldn't blame you if you were. It's a fine thing me dropping out of sight for so long and then writing you for a handout.

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