Elevator to the Gallows (1958)
Once again it’s time for my monthly assignment from Kristina of Speakeasy. This month she offers me a first. She’s assigned me a foreign film from French director Louis Malle that has a strong Noir flavor with a hint of Hitchcock tossed in with it and that suits me fine.
It’s an upside down tale of murders and ironic twists featuring Jeanne Moreau and her lover Maurice Ronet. In classic fashion the duo plot to murder her husband which is accomplished mere moments into the film. The bulk of the film’s 91 minutes is spent watching their perfect killing and seemingly air tight alibi come crashing down at the feet of police inspector Lino Ventura.
Once Ronet has killed Moreau’s husband, he realizes he’s left an incriminating piece of evidence behind and must re-enter the office building where he left the body. Ronet is in the employ of Moreau’s business tycoon husband. It’s while he’s in the building in an elevator that the security guard turns off the power for the weekend as he exits the building. Ronet is therefore trapped in the elevator of the film’s title. In essence his stay in a prison cell has just begun.
Moreau is waiting to be with her lover and partner in crime. He turns out to be a no-show. Still she doesn’t know quite what to make of things when she sees his car go speeding by and a young woman (Yori Bertin) she is acquainted with clearly visible in the passenger seat. This is where the plot begins to spin and twist itself into a parallel murder case.
The car has been stolen by a couple of young lovers who drive on into the night, eventually pulling into a motel and becoming chummy with an older couple from Germany. The young man portrayed by Georges Poujouly is a loose cannon and seems to be angry at the world. Hiding his identity he takes on that of Ronet when checking into the hotel. The young lovers play up there aliases but the night will end in the murders of the German couple when the elder man confronts Poujouly as he attempt to steal the German’s sports car.
With the police called in to investigate the murders, the number one suspect is Ronet who is locked in an elevator with his own murder victim just a few floors away. When the police arrive at the office building to seek clues in Ronet’s office, the elevator power is reignited releasing Ronet out onto the street. It won’t be long before he’s spotted by various people who have seen his picture in the morning newspaper leading to his arrest for a set of murders he didn’t commit.
Can Lino Ventura’s no nonsense detective put all the pieces together and assign the right victims to the correct killer?
This French effort seemed to be very Hitchcock like in it’s premise. There is no mystery to solve here. It’s all played out before our eyes. Two separate murder scenes that have the same suspect attached to both.
It’s interesting to note that Moreau who spends much of the film looking defeated and lost along with Ronet who are the lovers out to kill her husband in true Noir fashion don’t actually share any scenes together in the movie. The stars of the film are all killers really other then Lino Ventura’s cop. Ventura will always be associated with crime films in my viewing world thanks to seeing flicks like The Valachi Papers at a young age.
The soundtrack was credited on screen to Miles Davis. It would be the first film he was so credited on. Just recently his life story was put to film with Don Cheadle playing Miles in the 2015 release Miles Ahead.
Looking over Malle’s credits as a director, I was actually surprised to see that this is only the second film of his that I have actually seen. The other being Burt Lancaster’s late in life triumph, Atlantic City.
For a nifty killer thriller, this one works and the title suits the material.
Now it’s time to head over to see what I’ve assigned Kristina to watch. I will say that since TCM is celebrating the career of a personal favorite, Robert Ryan, I nudged her towards one of his final roles.