Special Note 19th April 2001: The glitches referenced in this review have caused Fox Home Entertainment to withhold release of this DVD until these glitches can be corrected. When a remastered DVD becomes available to re-review, we will update this review accordingly.


Special Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Menu Audio
Deleted Scenes (9)
Featurette - Casting Sessions
Cast & Crew Biographies
Theatrical Trailer
Audio Commentary - Adrian Lyne (Director)
Rating r.gif (1169 bytes)
Year Released 1997
Running Time 131:54 Minutes 
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (93:53)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Adrian Lyne
Mario Kassar
Fox Home Video
Starring Jeremy Irons
Melanie Griffith
Frank Langella
Dominique Swain
Suzanne Shepherd
Keith Reddin
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music Ennio Morricone

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan-and-Scan English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9Yes.jpg (4536 bytes)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits Yes, after the credits

Plot Synopsis

    This 1997 production of Lolita is the second film to be based upon Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel of the same name. The first film to be based upon the novel was written by Vladimir Nabokov himself (the 1997 version was written by Stephen Schiff) and helmed by the late Stanley Kubrick, a man whose work rarely impresses me. If you're looking for a debate on the relative merits of the 1962 Stanley Kubrick film and the 1997 Adrian Lyne film, you won't find it here. One piece of advice I have to offer about getting the most out of the two films, however, is that you watch both of them and make up your own mind about their strong points.

     The film begins with Humbert Humbert (Jeremy Irons) driving aimlessly down a long stretch of road in the year 1950 with a gun in his hands and a sad story to tell. We then wind back to the Cannes of 1926, where we see the younger Humbert (Ben Silverstone) meet a nice young woman named Annabel (Emma Griffiths-Malin). The two fall deeply in love, and all looks quite happy until young Annabel dies of typhus, leaving Humbert with emotional wounds which never heal. The story picks up in 1947, with Humbert now a literature professor who moves to America in order to accept a teaching position. Upon arriving at the home of some people he was going to stay with, only to find it has burned to the ground, he rents a room in the home of Charlotte Haze (Melanie Griffith) and her daughter, Dolores (Dominique Swain). Dolores reminds Humbert so much of Annabel in such an unhealthy way that he marries Charlotte chiefly in order to get close to her, a fact that Charlotte is none too happy about when she reads Humbert's diary. Before she can mail the appropriate letters to Dolores (who wouldn't care anyway) or the authorities, she is hit by a car and killed, leaving Humbert to care for Dolores and break the unfortunate news.

    From there, Humbert and Dolores travel across the USA, stopping at various hotels and being followed by the mysterious Clare Quilty (Frank Langella), until Humbert takes a teaching position in an unusually liberal school for girls, headed by the hilarious Miss Pratt (Suzanne Shepherd) and the nondescript Reverend Rigger (Keith Reddin). Their manner of dealing with their young charges is highly uncharacteristic of the early twentieth century America, to say the very least, as a quick quote from Miss Pratt can attest. ("She's a lovely child, Mr. Haze, but the onset of sexual maturing seems to be giving her trouble. It is the general impression that 14-year-old Dolores is morbidly disinterested in sexual matters.") From this point onwards, the story focuses upon Humbert's increasing desire to possess Dolores and how everything falls apart as a direct result. With Quilty still following them, and Humbert's paranoia increasing beyond control, you can tell that it will all end in tears. As the two resume driving from town to town, Humbert is more and more convinced that Dolores is either trying to get away from him or about to turn him in to the police. The irrational behaviour acted out by Jeremy Irons through this section of the film really makes for compelling viewing, as do the attempts to exploit it performed by Dominique Swain in her first starring role.

    A lot of controversy swarmed around this film when it was released both in America and Australia, with groups professing moral outrage at what is really a very simple and tragic story. To say that this film glorifies incest or paedophilia in any way is way off base, and it is clear that director Adrian Lyne wanted to tell the story as faithfully as is possible without pandering to the lowest common denominator, the viewers in search of another "erotic thriller". Numerous people who don't seem to have bothered to view the film have warned me off it, but I found the experience to be strangely enriching in a negative sort of way. The ending, which I won't spoil for the sake of those who need to view the film, really had the same disquieting effect upon me that the endings of films such as Gladiator and Fight Club have had, but for an entirely different and much more disturbing reason.

Transfer Quality

    Before we begin, it must be mentioned that serious video glitches in the first disc I received prompted a request to Fox for a second disc for evaluation. Sadly, both discs exhibited the same faults on two different players, using two different types of output.


    The packaging states that the transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, but it is most certainly in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. The transfer is encoded with Auto Pan & Scan information.

    The transfer is nice and sharp most of the time, although there are some moments when the backgrounds become rather hazy. The shadow detail of the transfer is very good, with plenty of subtle steps from light to dark in the low-lit scenes, and there is no low-level noise. Some grain is apparent in the sequences set in 1926, but this appears to have been a deliberate artistic choice.

    The colours in the picture are generally quite dull, with only the first half of the film containing any bright display of colours, and even then the only colours that really stand out are the fine greenery. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that director Adrian Lyne chose to create a dull, lifeless look in order to emphasize the emptiness of Humbert's world, and this effort was quite successful.

    MPEG artefacts consisted of horizontal streams of aberrant pixels, the first taking place at 0:58. There are numerous artefacts just like this scattered through the picture, generally occurring once every fifteen minutes. The worst of these glitches took place at 74:13, with a string of randomly-coloured pixels covering Suzanne Shepherd's right eye, and at 75:10, where another string of aberrant pixels can be seen across her neck. There are two possible explanations for these streams of pixels appearing with such frequency. One is that they are faults used in the glass master that was used to make the disc, and the other is that they are digital tape dropouts. Macro-blocking is also apparent in the middle of the frame at 24:37, during the sequence in which Charlotte is driving Dolores to a camp. All in all, these were an extreme disappointment, coming from a distributor such as Fox Home Video.

    Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor aliasing, but this artefact was quite well-controlled. Film artefacts are quite prominent during the opening credits, with numerous black marks, vertical white lines, and even what looks like a hair in the telecine machine making themselves apparent throughout the credits and introduction.

    This disc makes use of the RSDL format, with the layer change coming during Chapter 22, at 93:53. The layer change is somewhat noticeable, but it is not too intrusive.


    Thankfully, the audio is in much better shape than the video, although it isn't without the occasional problem.

    There are two soundtracks included on this DVD: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a bitrate of 448 kilobits per second, and an English Audio Commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 with a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second. I listened to both of these soundtracks in their entirety. The lack of any dubs in foreign languages, or Region Codes other than 4, makes the video quality all the more puzzling.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at almost all times, thanks in no small part to the efforts made by each actor to clearly enunciate everything. There were no problems with audio sync, but a brief audio dropout can be heard at 77:10. There are occasional pops, maybe enough to count on one hand, in the soundtrack after this point, but it was hard to tell if this was a fault or a deliberate effect at times.

    The score music in this film is credited to the legendary Ennio Morricone, and an excellent effort it is at that, enhancing the tragic aspect of the story. The score emphasizes haunting, melodramatic themes which almost give the film a funeral-like feel. There are also a handful of contemporary numbers used to accompany the scenes in which Dolores and Humbert are listening to the radio, but the use of music from the late 1940s gave them a surprisingly fresh and novel appearance. In some respects, the musical arrangements are the best thing about the film.

    The surround channels were used in a subtle but consistent fashion to support the music and such sound effects as passing cars, birds taking flight, police sirens, insect zappers, and other such mild directional noises. The film is quite heavily based upon dialogue, so while we obviously can't expect all five channels to be constantly putting out sound for the entire film, the surrounds were used quite effectively when they were required. I've always felt that too much emphasis is placed on constant surround activity, so it was a refreshing change to see the channels used economically and artfully.

    The subwoofer was frequently present to support the sounds of gunshots, car engines, and the music. It supported all of these effects without calling attention to itself or overpowering the other channels, which is again a nice change to what I have grown used to recently.


    The emphasis with these extras is definitely on the quality, it would seem.


    The menu is static, with a similar image to the cover art, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. It is accompanied by 48 KHz Linear PCM audio.

Audio Commentary - Adrian Lyne (Director)

    Given the controversy that plagued this film for a somewhat brief period around its theatrical release, anything Adrian Lyne has to say is going to be of some interest. The commentary is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, with Adrian speaking over a mix-down of the original English dialogue. One of the first things he says is that Ennio Morricone is one of those composers that every director wants to work with, which I'd certainly agree with, and that Jeremy Irons has the best voice in the business, which is also easy to agree with. Another point of interest that is covered in this commentary is the locations that were used to simulate the America of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Overall, this commentary requires a little effort to stick with to the end, but the rewards are well worth it.

Deleted Scenes

    A collection of nine scenes that didn't make the final cut, presented under their own submenu, in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. They are not 16x9 Enhanced. They are also quite dark and really do not add a great deal to the film. The second deleted scene, however, reveals where the footage of Dominique Swain juggling the apple came from.

Featurette - Casting Sessions

    An eleven minute and forty-nine second featurette containing a screen test with Dominique Swain and Jeremy Irons, presented Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The final scene appears at the end of the screen test, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and not 16x9 Enhanced.


    This untitled featurette, running for eight minutes and twenty-one seconds, can be looked upon as one of those extended promotional trailers, although some of the cursory interview footage is interesting. It is presented Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Biographies for Dominique Swain, Jeremy Irons, Melanie Griffith, Frank Langella, and director Adrian Lyne are presented under this sub-menu. They are reasonably interesting, although not particularly comprehensive.

Theatrical Trailer

    A fifty-three second theatrical trailer, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.


    Numerous scenes in Lolita had to be trimmed or outright deleted in order to meet the standards enforced by the MPAA, BBFC, and OFLC. These scenes are presented on the R1 version as extras, while both the BBFC and OFLC have decided that the scenes should remain the way they are - deleted. Unlike most censorship issues in the Region 4 market, this is not just a case of distributor laziness forcing the BBFC's laws upon us, as the OFLC also has a thing against the glorification of paedophilia, a description that these scenes apparently meet. Director Adrian Lyne has been quoted in interviews as being happy that these scenes did not make the final cut, so it isn't as though we are not receiving what he intended. Ultimately, the decision as to whether Fox Home Video should be commended for not pandering to the lowest common denominator or condemned for not giving us the same deleted scenes extras as our Region 1 counterpart rests with the consumer.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     Definitive information on the Region 1 version of this disc is hard to find, but the reviews I have found describe the picture as being plagued by film grain and minor artefacts. If these are truly the least of the Region 1 disc's problems, then it may well be the better version, since digital dropouts do not get a mention in any of the reviews I've seen.


    Lolita is, for me, a rather disturbing film with a haunting message that got overshadowed by a row of undeserved negative publicity. It is worth looking at just to see the performances by the principal actors.

    The video quality is disappointing, and suggests a major slip in quality control.

    The audio quality is good, but not without some problems of its own.

    The extras are comprehensive.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
March 31, 2001

Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output; Grundig GDV 100D, using composite output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NS-C120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer