Stanley Kubrick still hadn’t quite established himself as, you know, Stanley Kubrick, when he tackled the supposedly unfilmable Lolita from a screenplay by Nabokov himself. The results were imperfect at best, but demonstrated a filmmaker willing to work on the high wire without a net, and set the stage for the breathtaking string of masterpieces that followed. Lolita was released today in 1962.
The giant monster craze of the 1950s is not, by and large, a noble one, but every now and then they hit upon a winner. One of them was The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, about a dinosaur reawakened by (bet you’ll never guess) atomic testing and running amuck in the streets of New York. Director Eugene Lourie did quite well, but the real star of the show was the stop-motion effects from the legendary Ray Harryhausen. The film opened today in 1953.
We’ll close with You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery’s fifth outing as 007, and the one where he clearly lost interest in continuing the franchise. Ironically, the film is one of Bond’s better entries — even phoning-it-in Connery can be irresistible, and Donald Pleasance delivered the definitive portrayal of perennial baddie Ernst Stavro Blofeld — provided you accept the virulent racism of the premise, and the ninja-based nonsense that goes with it. It opened today in 1967.