Gallows gives us a familiar setup: Woman (Jeanne Moreau) wants rich husband dead. Her lover Julien (Maurice Roget), who works for the man, murders him and makes it look like a suicide. But Julien leaves his rope outside his penthouse office window. With all his gear in the car, Julien heads back to retrieve the evidence, but security guards shut off the power in the elevator on the way down. Meanwhile, the car is stolen, the young couple who take it pretend they're Julien and wife, and subsequently kill a pair of German tourists. Julien is unknowingly framed for that crime, all while trying to escape the elevator he's stuck in.
At first, Gallows doesn't even hint where it's taking us, but it isn't long before we're sucked into Julien's messed-up world, desperately trying to figure out who to root for (it certainly isn't the cops, who pose for pictures from the press with their cigarettes to one side). Mix in a dazzling Miles Davis score and you'll barely notice the subtitles.
Why didn't Malle make more thrillers? He's got a real knack for showing off the nasty side of humanity -- and his makeup-less shots of French superstar Moreau show that he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty. We'll never know for sure, but sucking in his story of one amateur hit man's debacle of a night in Paris is a stellar way to spend your own evening.
After the film, you can get more detail on the second disc of extras, including interviews, footage of Davis improvising the score, a discussion with a jazz critic, and more Criterion goodness.
Aka Ascenseur pour l'échafaud.
Run time: 88 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 29th January 1958
Distributed by: Rialto Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 46 Rotten: 4
IMDB: 8.0 / 10
Director: Louis Malle
Producer: Jean Thuillier
Screenwriter: Louis Malle, Roger Nimier
Starring: Michiko Kichise as Meiko Temiyako, Hiroshi Abe as Tokito Takahiko, Keiko Kitagawa as Mikayo Matsumoto, Tetsuji Tamayama as Kunie Akagi
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