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Elevator to the Gallows (1958)

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

Director:

Louis Malle

Writers:

Roger Nimier (adaptation), Louis Malle (adaptation) | 3 more credits »
1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jeanne Moreau ... Florence Carala
Maurice Ronet ... Julien Tavernier
Georges Poujouly ... Louis
Yori Bertin ... Véronique
Jean Wall ... Simon Carala
Elga Andersen ... Frieda Bencker
Sylviane Aisenstein Sylviane Aisenstein ... Yvonne, La fille du bar
Micheline Bona Micheline Bona ... Geneviève
Gisèle Grandpré Gisèle Grandpré ... Jacqueline Mauclair
Jacqueline Staup Jacqueline Staup ... Anna
Marcel Cuvelier Marcel Cuvelier ... Le réceptionniste du motel
Gérard Darrieu Gérard Darrieu ... Maurice
Charles Denner ... L'adjoint du commissaire Cherrier
Hubert Deschamps ... Le substitut du procureur
Jacques Hilling Jacques Hilling ... Le garagiste
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Rialto Pictures

Country:

France

Language:

French | German

Release Date:

29 January 1958 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Elevator to the Gallows See more »

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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 IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(copyright length)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Louis Malle shot his lead actress Jeanne Moreau in close-up and natural light and often without make-up. Moreau, an icon of French film, had never been seen like this before, to the extent that lab technicians, reportedly appalled at how unflatteringly she was photographed, refused to process the film. Once they were persuaded to, however, it soon began clear that Malle had captured every nuance of Moreau's performance. See more »

Goofs

Time leaps: When Louis is driving off with Julien's car, the clock on the dashboard reads 5.15, although it is actually about 7.40 p.m. The next moment the clock reads 11.20. After passing by Florence at the cafe, the clock reads 11.50. When Florence is leaving the cafe to start her walk, a clock in the cafe reads 9.30, a few seconds later the clock over a pub reads 2.35. A minute later Julien's watch reads 8.29 p.m. Another minute later the clock in the garage reads 11.25 p.m. See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

Featured in The Miles Davis Story (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

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

 
naturalistic to a T, cool to the bone, atmosphere and suspense pay-off
26 August 2005 | by MisterWhiplashSee all my reviews

I've only seen a couple of other of Louis Malle's films, but I'm sure I'll want to see more after getting to see this in its revival in theaters. It's an ironic, tense, a little aloof and engrossing thriller that plays on a couple of expectations if not all. At times I almost felt like I was watching a darker, dramatic French-noir version of Curb Your Enthusiasm; you're cringing in your seat at times because everything, at least for the first hour, seems realistic, and the inter-cutting between the three plot-lines (Julien in the elevator, Florence on the streets, the lovers-on-the-run at the Motel). You know something bad will happen, as par for the style Malle is working in (it's his first film, one can/can't tell if they didn't know beforehand). But it interested me, and kept me in my seat, how I knew things may unravel as they should in these films, and I found myself having to root for someone in a sea of anti-heroes.

I mention Curb Your Enthusiasm as there is a sort of everyday occurrence that basically kicks off the plot (in tune with the genius title of the film), as Julien Tavaneur gets stuck in an elevator after getting rid of Florence Carala's rich husband (Moreau's character). Two kids, one more dangerous (if a little inexplicable, Louis) than the other, steal his car and stay at a Motel, where they meet a genial German tourist. Out of bad luck (as it is a running theme of the play), he kills the German, and things get more out of hand for everybody. In fact, the plot is rather thin, leaving room for a) suspense tenseness in the elevator scenes (and later in the interrogation scene, superbly lit), b) narrative musings by the calm Moreau, or c) troubles of the kids. These narratives are handled well, along with the typical police procedural, and it leads up to an ending that may not necessarily have a message to it.

It can't be as pat as 'crime doesn't pay'. Moreau, in a classy close-up, says things that struck a chord with me, as did many parts of the film. It may be fate, as par for the naturalism, but is there something behind the cool veneer? The only downside for me was with the performance of the actor who played Louis. I didn't think he gave enough to what is indeed a rather small-minded character. The actress who plays his girlfriend fares fine, but he is one of the keys to the film, and I felt a little uneasy watching some of his scenes later on in the film. But still, any fault(s) I had with the film were minuscule when looking at how it is overall. This is one of those films that for pretty much the whole way through had me in its grip; I've rarely felt that watching a 'film-noir' before, but I did feel a very small kinship to another love/lust/cold-murder film, Blood Simple, which leaped off of some of the conventions we all know and admire in these films.

And the contribution from Miles Davis, who is to 'cool' as the Beatles are to love & peace, can't be over-estimated. If Moreau gives the film a kind of downtrodden, wandering and wondering soul, and Malle gives the right look of the film with the great Henri (Le Samourai) Decae as DP, Davis backs up everything else. Sometimes his fast, overwhelming notes come through (mostly as on-the-set background music), and his slower music is landmark stuff, but what's surprising is that he can also add suspense, like to the elevator and interrogation scenes, and the mood is inescapable. I wouldn't be surprised if more than a few filmmakers who saw this film were inspired by Malle's use of free-flow jazz to add to the 'cool-ness' of the picture (not that he was the first of course, but it can be spotted in many films, in particular Herrmann's score for Taxi Driver). I have a feeling this may be the kind of film that will play better on multiple viewings, and for now I'm content to say it was a very well-spent trip.


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