Louis Malle had his feature filmmaking debut at age twenty-four with this spellbinding thriller that takes place one night in Paris. Beautiful Florence (Jeanne Moreau) and her lover Julien (Maurice Ronet) murder her wealthy husband, which leads to mistaken identity and more murder.

As Julien attempts to retrieve an incriminating piece of evidence from the crime, he becomes trapped in an elevator while Florence wanders the rainy, neon-lit night, thinking she's been abandoned. Meanwhile, an impulsive teenage couple has stolen Julien's car and gone on a joyride, which results in tragedy -- and more complications for Julien.

The score was improvised by Miles Davis as he watched the film (below is a video where you can see the intense concentration on his face as he plays during the single recording session). The music was used sparingly, increasing its impact. Jazz critic critic Phil Johnson describes it as "the loneliest trumpet sound you will ever hear, and the model for sad-core music ever since. Hear it and weep."

The Criterion edition includes a restored, high-definition digital transfer on disc 1, while disc 2 has a new interview with Jeanne Moreau and archival ones with Louis Malle and amazing footage of Miles Davis at the recording session for the score.

Elevator to the Gallows (1958)


Written by Lisa on June 26, 2012


Mary Ann on June 27, 2012


Excellent! Your review captures the essence of this classic film beautifully.

Lia on June 29, 2012


I need to see this film! That video is amazing. Miles Davis was one-of-a-kind.

J.Allen on July 10, 2012


Miles Davis! I have to see this film.

Robin F. on July 15, 2012


I put a copy on reserve. Thanks for pointing out this intriguing film with such a sumptuous blog post!

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