Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Elevator to the Gallows

(Ascenseur pour l'échafaud, France, 1958)

(aka Frantic, aka Lift to the Scaffold, UK) Hitchcock was not the only one working in the 1950s who could make a tense thriller. In France, Louis Malle made this little gem. Maurice Ronet is having an affair with Jeanne Moreau, wife of his rich industrialist boss. They decide to kill him, and he comes up with a foolproof plan. When everyone in the office has gone home, he tosses a grappling hook over the rail of the story above him, nine floors or so up. Scales the building, shoots the boss, makes it look like suicide, and leaves. Locked room mystery! Only … the dumb mook forgets about the rope hanging on the side of the building. He hurries back inside … and is in the elevator when the janitor cuts power to the building for the weekend. He tries everything, but can’t get out.

Meanwhile, a real stupid loser and his girlfriend steal his car and go joyriding, stopping at a motel, where he kills a German businessman and his mistress for his really cool Mercedes gull-wing 300SL. They have signed in under the killer’s name … so now the man trapped in the elevator is wanted for a double murder and his alibi is that he couldn’t have done it because he was too busy killing his boss. Oh, my, what to do? The movie is darkly funny, watching all these people trip over their own feet. And sadly, a lot more believable than your Swiss-watch caper movie where everything happens as planned. I believe that most people are just too dumb and/or accident prone to tackle a murder plan.