Lolita Locations - The Black Hills Cafe and the Badlands of South Dakota

Go to Table of Contents of the analysis (which has also a statement on purpose and manner of analysis and a disclaimer as to caveat emptor and my knowing anything authoritatively, which I do not, but I do try to not know earnestly, with some discretion, and considerable thought).

This post continues from Lolita Green Screen Location Shots 271-285 – Guess What, When They're on Their Way to the Enchanted Hunters Hotel They're in South Dakota.

When Humbert and Lolita are in the southwest, where are they? Arizona? Hmmm?


If we take a close look at the one sign clearly observable (despite it not being neon) in greenscreen shot 414, it reads Black Hills Cafe. Beyond, in the distance, it certainly looks like the Black Hills of South Dakota to me.

From the first time I saw Lolita on I assumed that location shots 411, 423, 427 and the green screen shots 424-431 were taken in the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest area of Arizona. I've been through there twice. I've photographed the hills there. I should have known better.

Because finally I had a moment of lucidity and it hit me that there is nothing really like these formations in the Painted Desert, not on this scale, and the road that Humbert and Lolita drive in the green screens is not at all like the road that takes one through the Painted Desert. This twisty-turny highway is not there.

These looked like, instead, the Badlands of South Dakota.

These are the Badlands of South Dakota.

Where are the Badlands of South Dakota? In the Black Hills.


Above is shot 427 from Lolita. Below is a Google shot of the Bad Lands.


These are most definitely the Bad Lands of South Dakota we see Humbert and Lolita traveling through. They would be on Highway 240 (carrying on the 24 theme).

Not only do we have the green screens but we have physical shots in the Bad Lands and Black Hills of the station wagon and the car following it.

A mystery is which Black Hills Cafe this is? There were four Black Hills Cafes owned by the same family. I've seen pics of the cafes in Deadwood and Custer and they don't match. Though the mountains at Deadwood could be a match. I've not seen what the cafes would have looked like in NewCastle Wyoming and Chamberlain SD but the mountains in the background from NewCastle look less promising and the surrounding landscape for Chamberlain isn't a match. Another town with perhaps the right kind of mountains in relations to the street is Hill City, South Dakota. I only accidentally looked at Hill City, South Dakota because I thought a photo represented it as having a Black Hills Cafe when instead it was a Hill City Cafe.

So, that's a mystery I'd like to solve. Where was this particular Black Hills Cafe? Or is it even possible that Kubrick had a Black Hills Cafe sign installed in some place like Hill City?

There's a two story movie theater right beyond the cafe with a name of 3 letters which would certainly help to identify where the green screen for shot 414 is but I've had no luck being able to read it.

There's an additional bit of information to be taken into consideration with the revelatory greenscreen shot 284 of the Covered Wagon Resort and this later greenscreen shot of the Black Hills Cafe. In advertising, apparently, a covered wagon was used for the Black Hills Cafe.


I've also seen the covered wagon on plates from the Newcastle Black Hills location. I could be wrong but I'm guessing the covered wagon was perhaps used at them all.

I'm going to copy and paste my earlier post on this a couple of paragraphs which I'll then expand upon:

Why the Black Hills? Was it simply to make it unlikely for the audience to pinpoint locations rolling by outside the windows, Humbert and Lolita traveling a fictional nowhere land not to be brought to earth by recognizable features? Placing them in an area far beyond the northeast would certainly do this, but there may have been other factors at play.

My reasoning is that the Enchanted Hunters Hotel has been presented as being possibly in the White Mountains of New Hampshire due happenings in Nabokov's novel. Because of the White Mountains, New Hampshire used to be known as the "Switzerland of America" and it's when Humbert and Lolita are at the Enchanted Hunters Hotel that Nabokov has Humbert beginning to operate under the delusion/suspicion that his Swiss Uncle, Gustave, who may have had similar tastes to Humbert, has begun following them. He thinks he's seen him at the hotel. Kubrick plays with opposites, with dividing lines, negatives and positives, and I was wondering if the Black Hills related to the White Mountains in this way because the Black Hills have also been called the "Switzerland of America". Sorry, that's the best I can do for now.

I'm referring back to this because of Uncle Gustave, who begins making his appearance in the book at the Enchanted Hunters Hotel.

After that first night, Humbert sends Lolita down with "a new purse of simulated calf (in which I hd slipped quite a few pennies and two mint-bright dimes) and told her to buy herself a magazine in the lobby." He instructs her not to talk to strangers.

When he joins her downstairs he sees that "a fellow of my age in tweed (the genre of the place had changed overnight to a spurious country-squire atmosphere) was staring at my Lolita over his dead cigar and stale newspaper." Humbert describes Lolita's innocent appearance, and then, "nothing could be more naive–But what sickening envy the lecherous fellow whoever he was–come to think of it, he resembled a little my Swiss uncle Gustave, also a great admirer of le découvert–would have experienced had he known that every nerve in me was still anointed and ringed with the feel of her body–the body of some immortal daemon disguised as a female child."

Le découvert means nude but there's probably something more at play here.

Kubrick almost, but doesn't quite, have that Country Squire atmosphere as their constant traveling companion in the form of the station wagon, which is a 1957 Country Sedan (Ford). The difference between it and the Ford Country Squire was that the Country Squire station wagons had the wood paneling.

I'm a little reminded of how the Haze household is actually a timber frame construction (at least the facade) but the timber is painted over so we don't even notice it. This is meaningful as Naboko litters the novel with coincidences and synchronicities, such as the Haze household having the number 342 and the room in which they stay at the Enchanted Hunters Hotel having the room number 342 (which Kubrick changed to 242). There are many, many more, and Nabokov points many of them out. Kubrick doesn't. Kubrick remains verbally mum on them, sometimes even disguising likenesses.

Such as the timber frame construction of the Haze household...


Which you can't see above, in the film, but you can see in a modern real estate photo of the house (was color, I've converted to b&w).


If the paint hadn't covered over the timber frame facade in the film then the viewer would have certainly made a connection with the Enchanted Hunters Hotel.


In this way does, I suppose, the 1957 Ford Country Sedan relate to the 1957 Ford Country Squire. The Country Squire has the wood paneling and the Country Sedan does not, but they are otherwise the same car. And I think, by way of the wagon, a reference is being made to the Enchanted Hunters Hotel as Nabokov represents it, in le découvert section, as having undergone a spurious change so it was "country squire".

The idea of the doubles. Nabokov was all about doubles, profoundly interested in doubles, as was Kubrick.

A reason it may have been important for Kubrick to retain the idea of the country squire would be to do with its relationship to chess, as a squire was a young noble attendant upon a knight, one of the two chess pieces referred to in the chess game that Humbert plays with Charlotte.

The covered wagon relates to le découvert in that it is covered, couvrir (cover comes from the french).

There are some specific visual references to le découvert in the film, but this seems to me to be enough for a small post. Maybe later.

I didn't even get into how the Badlands end up relating to northern ice climates (Alaska and and Canadian quasi-polar expedition Humbert went on in the book) and how this was significant.

Go to Table of Contents of the Lolita analysis
If you want to comment, try out FB
Link to the main Kubrick page for all the analyses