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Elevator to the Gallows (The Criterion Collection)

4.4 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A French war hero plots to kill his lover's husband. Directed by Louis Malle. Music by Miles Davis.


Elevator to the Gallows is many things: A tight, delicious crime thriller; the debut of director Louis Malle (Zazie dans le metro, Atlantic City, Au Revoir, Les Enfants, and many more works of subtle genius); a movie with perhaps the greatest jazz soundtrack of all time, created improvisationally by trumpeter Miles Davis; but above all, Elevator to the Gallows is the blooming of Jeanne Moreau to the status of true movie star, launching her on a career that included Jules & Jim, La notte, and La Femme Nikita. After killing his lover's husband, Julien (Maurice Ronet, Purple Noon) gets trapped in an elevator, forcing him to miss his rendezvous with Florence (Moreau) and allowing his car to be stolen by a joy-riding young couple. From there, the movie splits into three directions: Julien's efforts to escape; Florence wandering the streets, trying not to believe that Julien has abandoned her; and the car thieves, who get caught up in a murder of their own. The movie skillfully fuses Hitchcockian suspense with intimate psychodrama. As she stalks through the night, Moreau is a vision of tortured heartbreak, her woeful eyes and lush, sensuous lips illuminated by neon signs and baleful streetlamps. This is pure cinematic pleasure, visual beauty fused with taut, edge-of-your-seat storytelling.

Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • New and archival interviews with Louis Malle, actors Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet, and original soundtrack session pianist René Urtreger
  • Footage of Miles Davis improvising the film's score
  • New video discussion about the score with jazz critic Gary Giddins and musician Jon Faddis
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • 28-page booklet with essays by critic Terrence Rafferty and producer Vincent Malle and an interview with Louis Malle

Product Details

  • Actors: Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Georges Poujouly, Yori Bertin, Jean Wall
  • Directors: Louis Malle
  • Writers: Louis Malle, Noël Calef, Roger Nimier
  • Producers: Jean Thuillier
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: April 25, 2006
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000E5LEVA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,490 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Elevator to the Gallows (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Louis Malle was all of 25 when he made his directorial debut with this 1958 noirish thriller that also serves as a morality play. Using the elevator of the title as a vehicle for his leitmotif, he does an admirable job of capturing the smoky gray atmosphere of Paris in the 1950's and using it to great cinematic effect on a chain-link story of deception and murder. In fact, the whole movie plays like a Francophile version of a James M. Cain novel times two with plot twists coming in quick and sometimes contrived succession. To its credit, the brief 92-minute running time trots by quickly given the multiple storylines.

The labyrinth story focuses first on illicit lovers Florence Carala, the restless wife of a corrupt arms dealer, and Julien Tavernier, a former war hero working for Florence's husband. There is not a wasted moment as they plot her husband's murder, but of course, things go awry with a forgotten piece of evidence and a running car ready to be taken. An amoral young couple, sullen and resentful Louis and free-spirited Veronique, enter the scene tangentially and get caught up in their own deceptions with a boisterous German couple whom they meet through a fender bender. The plot strands meander somewhat and eventually come together in a climax that has all the characters confronting the harsh reality of their past actions. There is a particular poignancy in the photos Florence sees at the end since we have no indication of the depth of emotion between the lovers otherwise.

Malle, along with co-screenwriter Roger Nimier, presents an interesting puzzle full of irony and chance events, but there is a periodic slackness to the suspense, for instance, Florence's endlessly despondent walk though nocturnal Paris.
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Format: VHS Tape
Released originally in 1957, newly restored this year, Louis Malle's ("Pretty Baby") gorgeous "Elevator to the Gallows" ("Ascenseur pour l'Echafaud") is ultimately more flash than substance: many scenes were filmed with natural light (shades of Dogma95?) and Jeanne Moreau's penultimate scene walking down the Champs Elysees light only from the glare of the shop windows that she passes is stunning in its simple, shadowy beauty. Paris, in many ways has never looked more beautiful or more sinister.

The plot revolves around two couples: Florence Carala (Moreau), her paramour Julien (Maurice Ronet) and two juvenile delinquents, Veronique (Yori Bertin) and Louis (Georges Poujouly)...who steal Julien's car. The quartet meet only at the conclusion of the film though their actions definitely affect each other earlier.

There is also intrigue involving Julien and Florence's husband Simon Carala (Jean Wall) and their participation in war profiteering in the Indochina War (it is 1957, after all). But the plot takes a back seat to the mise en scene as Malle's camera and the mood take precedence over plot development and plot logic.

"Elevator to the Gallows" (a very witty title, by-the-way) is at times breathtakingly beautiful to behold: Decae's moody camerawork and Miles Davis' score and trumpet work are brilliant. And as a precursor to the emotional depth, flash and profundity of what was soon to arrive, "Elevator to the Gallows" is an important piece of the wonderful puzzle that was to become the French New Wave a few years hence.
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Format: VHS Tape
French New Wave at it's best? Louis Malle's first film has been considered one of the first if not the first film of the French New Wave and either way is certainly one of the best. The story has Hitchcockian undertones to it; A man kills his lover's husband and then gets trapped in the elevator while fleeing the scene. The tension mounts as the man's lover, Jeanne Moreau and the audience wait to see if he will escape or get caught. Like the early films of the new wave there are many shots of and around Paris. However Malle made one of the best decisions in cinematic history by having Miles Davis do the soundtrack. Miles gives those scenes in Paris and the entire film a quality that is indescribable. For those who admire the films of Godard, Truffaut or Varda will love this unbelievable piece of cinema. However this film is not available on DVD. Cannot for the life of me imagine why. Criterion please help!!! The soundtrack on its own is amazing and for jazz fans should be purchased immediately. I looked for it forever and it has finally been released on CD.
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Format: VHS Tape
Louis Malle is one of the best film directors to ever work in the field. He is perhaps best known for his semi-autobiographical films "Murmur of the Heart" and "Au Revoir Les Enfants", both of which depict fictionalized periods of his life growing up in France. All of his films have a magical quality about them telling compelling stories about believable characters. My first exposure to Malle was "Atlantic City", the story of an aging wannabee gangster (Burt Lancaster) who falls in love with a younger woman working in the oyster bar at a casino. Each has dreams they are pursuing, trying to escape the grind of working on the boardwalk. "Atlantic City" cemented Sarandon's growing reputation and helped to preserve Lancaster's film legacy. The popularity of "Au Revoir Les Enfants", about Malle's days at a boarding school and the friendship he made there, warranted the re-release of "Murmur of the Heart" allowing more people to experience his films. Malle quickly became on of "those" directors whose every new film I eagerly await.

One of Malle's earliest films, "Elevator to the Gallows" has just been re-released. Shot in black and white, featuring Jeanne Moreau's first film role, and highlighted by a Miles Davis soundtrack, the film is a great example of Film Noir.

Florence (Jeanne Moreau) and Julien (Maurice Ronet) share a phone conversation that only two lovers in Paris can have; they make arrangements to meet later that evening. Julien, the second-in-command at a shady French corporation, asks the receptionist if she can stay a little late. They are working on a Saturday so Julien can finish a report for their boss, Carala to take with him to Geneva. The boss calls down and says he will be leaving to catch his train shortly.
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Elevator to the Gallows (The Criterion Collection)
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