Elevator to the Gallows (1958) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • 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...

  • The former Captain Julien Tavernier works in the company of the powerful arms dealer Simon Carala and is the lover of his wife Florence Carala. Julien and Florence plot a scheme to kill Simon simulating a suicide. Julien stays after-hours in the company with the telephone operator and the doorman and comes to his office. He climbs to Simon's office using a rope outside the window and kills the executive. He runs to his office to attend a phone call and forgets the rope, and leaves the building with the two employees to have an alibi. When he is ready to drive his car, he sees the rope hanging outside the building and he returns to withdraw the rope, leaving his overcoat and revolver in the car. When he enters in the lift, the doorman shutdown the building and Julien is trapped inside the elevator. Meanwhile the smalltime thief Louis steals Julien's car and drives to a motel with his girlfriend VĂ©ronique and lodge using the name of Julien. They drink with the German tourists Horst Bencker and his wife Frieda Bencker and early in the morning, Louis tries to steal his Mercedes Benz. When he is surprised by Horst, Louis shoots and kills the couple. Julien Tavernier becomes the prime suspect of the murder and when he leaves the lift, he does not have alibi for the murder of Simon Carala and the German tourists.

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


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • This is an excellent example of "theatre of the absurd", filmed as a "film noir" suspense thriller. "Theatre of the absurd" posits that the universe is a random entity where nothing is likely to happen as expected. I believe Camus and other French writers of his era were the principle exponents of this view of life. Well, here we have certainly an example.

    A businessman (Julien Tavernier, played by Maurice Ronet), in love with his boss's wife (Florence Carala, played by Jeanne Moreau), plans a murder to look like suicide. This involves using a grappling hook and rope to enable him to climb up a floor without using the elevator. So far, so good. The boss is duly murdered, our "hero" climbs back down, takes the elevator down, and then realises he has left the rope dangling. Well, back up in the elevator, but alas, the building custodian shuts off the power, stopping the elevator between floors. Frantic (also an alternate title along with "Elevator to the Gallows"), our man tries to escape, but he is truly trapped.

    Meanwhile, at street level, things are not going well for the man's inamorata. She is wandering around wondering what happened to her man, and is "vagged" by the gendarmes for not having her ID papers. There's more. A pair of wandering teenage lovers (Louis and Veronique, played by Georges Poujouly and Yori Bertin), decide to steal the man's car. They know who he is, and freely use his name while committing a few other crimes of their own. Such as stealing a Mercedes 300SL, and murdering the owner and his wife in the process. When the man finally does get out of the elevator after the power is restored in the morning, he discovers that.... But that would be telling, and you will want to find out for yourself. In any case, I have told enough to show that for the protagonist of this tale, the universe is truly a place not to be trusted at all!

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