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Film / Elevator to the Gallows

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Elevator to the Gallows (French: Ascenseur pour l'échafaud), also known as Lift to the Scaffold in the UK, is a 1958 crime thriller by Louis Malle.

The movie revolves around the plan of a wife (Jeanne Moreau) and her lover to kill her husband. It is at first executed to a tee considering the murder itself. However in the aftermath the plan is thwarted when the lover gets stuck in the titular lift. Later his car is hijacked by the younger couple who while on the ride also kill a couple of the German tourists, the Benckers. The case becomes convoluted. Then a police commissary Cherier played by Lino Ventura enters the film.

The famous soundtrack for this film was contributed by Miles Davis.



  • Brandishment Bluff: Played straight by Horst Bencker, and it gets him shot and killed.
  • Close-Up on Head: The opening scene starts with a close up on Florence's head and then zooming out to show her talking on the telephone.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Florence Carala which is lampshaded by Police Commissaire Cherrier.
  • Cool Car:
    • At first one might think that Chevrolet convertible owned by Julien is the one. That's why Louis hijacks it.
    • But then Louis and Véronique meet a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL gullwing on the road.
  • A Deadly Affair: Florence is married to Simon and having an affair with Julien. She conspires with Julien to kill off Simon.
  • Determinator: Florence Carala regularly invokes that she is the one, always repeating that she will save Julien, her lover by whatever means. Her determination is of a somnambulic kind but one cannot say that this trope is averted for her. She will indeed go to great lengths to help Julien.
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  • Elevator Failure: For most of the film, Julien is trapped inside an elevator due to the electricity shutting off for the weekend.
  • Inner Monologue: There's a lot of this from Florence as she walks around in the rain, wondering why Julien hasn't shown up after supposedly killing her husband.
  • Ms. Exposition: Véronique tells her boyfriend about Julien's achievements through which we learns what a badass he is.
  • Never Suicide: Julien stages the murder to make it look like Simon killed himself.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Julien's boss is praising him as a friend and hero while the latter is one step away from murdering him.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Simon has a dime-sized hole in his temple and that's it. There isn't even any blood.
  • Rule of Cool: Malle is guided by this rule quite frequently. No wonder as this is a 1958 and the film is one of the very first entries in the genre of French New Wave.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The reason Julien goes back and gets himself stuck in the lift is because he wanted to retrieve the rope dangling from Carala's window that he'd forgotten about. A later scene shows that it eventually fell by itself and got picked up by a child.
  • Smithical Marriage: Louis and his girlfriend sign the register as Mr. and Mrs. Julien Tavernier, which proves relevant late when the police focus on Julien for the murder of the Germans.
  • Spanner in the Works Julien would probably have gotten away with his murder if it wasn't for Véronique and her boyfriend who steal his car, commit murder and get the compromising photos developed.
  • Spy Cam: Julien's mini camera.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Julien's boss tries this at gunpoint. It doesn't intimidate Julien in the least.

Alternative Title(s): Ascenseur Pour L Echafaud