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Elevator to the Gallows (1958)

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 29 January 1958 (France)
1:49 | Trailer

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A self-assured businessman murders his employer, the husband of his mistress, which unintentionally provokes an ill-fated chain of events.



(adaptation), (adaptation) | 3 more credits »
1 win. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Frieda Bencker
Sylviane Aisenstein ...
Yvonne, La fille du bar
Micheline Bona ...
Gisèle Grandpré ...
Jacqueline Mauclair
Jacqueline Staup ...
Marcel Cuvelier ...
Le réceptionniste du motel
Gérard Darrieu ...
Le substitut du procureur
Jacques Hilling ...
Le garagiste


Florence Carala and her lover Julien Tavernier, an ex - paratrooper want to murder her husband by faking a suicide. But after Julien has killed him and he puts his things in his car, he finds he has forgotten the rope outside the window and he returns to the building to remove it... Written by Stephan Eichenberg <eichenbe@fak-cbg.tu-muenchen.de>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The most tense, taut 24 hours that ever confronted a woman and her lover. See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




Release Date:

29 January 1958 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Elevator to the Gallows  »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$7,354, 26 June 2005, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$109,257, 16 December 2016
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


(copyright length)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Miles Davis recorded the music with a quartet of French and US musicians in a few hours (from 11pm to 5am one night), improvising each number and allegedly sipping champagne with Jeanne Moreau and Louis Malle. See more »


Julien climbing up and down the balcony may be seen from the opposite buildings, which are nearly as high as the Carala-building. See more »


Le commissaire Cherrier: you see madam there are always several photos in a camera
See more »


Referenced in Broken Embraces (2009) See more »


Sur L'Autoroute
Composed by Miles Davis
Performed by Miles Davis (Trumpet), Barney Wilen (Tenor Saxophone), René Urtreger (Piano), Pierre Michelot (Bass) and Kenny Clarke (Drums)
See more »

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User Reviews

The black cat has it...
1 March 2014 | by See all my reviews

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (AKA: Elevator to the Gallows/Lift to the Scaffold) is directed by Louis Malle and co-written by Malle, Roger Nimier and Noël Calef (novel). It stars Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Georges Poujouly, Yori Bertin and Jean Wall. Music is by Miles Davis and cinematography by Henri Decaë.

A little ole devil this one, a sly slow pacer that itches away at your skin. Rightly seen as a bridging movie between the classic film noir cycle and the nouvelle vague, Malle's movie is in truth straightforward on narrative terms. Julien Tavernier (Ronet) is going to kill husband of his lover, Florence Carala (Moreau), who also happens to be his boss, but upon executing the perfect murder, he, through his own absent mindedness, winds up stuck in a lift close to the crime scene. Outside Florence is frantically awaiting his arrival so as to begin their life together in earnest, but when a couple of young lovers steal Julien's car, Florence gets the wrong end of the stick and a sequence of events lead to Julien and Florence hitching that ride to the gallows.

Simplicity of narrative be damned, Malle's movie is a classic case of that mattering not one jot. There is style to burn here, with bleak atmospherics dripping from every frame, and Miles Davis' sultry jazz music hovers over proceedings like a sleazy grim reaper. The ironic twists in the writing come straight off the bus to noirville, putting stings in the tale, the smart reverse of the norm finding Moreau (sensual) wandering the streets looking for her male lover, while elsewhere he's in isolation and a doppleganger murder scenario is cunningly being played out. Decaë's photography has a moody desperation about it that so fits the story, the use of natural light making fellow French film makers sit up and take notice. While the dialogue, and the caustic aside to arms dealings, ensures we know that Malle can be a sly old fox. He really should have done more noir like pictures.

A film that convinces us that Julien and Florence are deeply in love and passionate about each other, and yet they never are once together in the whole movie! It's just one of the many wonderful things about Louis Malle's excellent picture.

Remember folks, the camera never lies... 9/10

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