Elevator to the gallows, original title Shikeidai no erebêtâ, is a remake of the noirish French film Ascenseur pour l’échafaud from 1958. As with most remakes, it is almost inevitable to compare it with the original film. The original is a pretty well known classic from 3-time Oscar nominated director Louis Malle. 52 years later, it was up to Japanese director Akira Ogata to take on the assignment to direct this Japanese remake.
Hiroshi Abe is Takahiko Tokito, a doctor at a big medical corporation. He has decided to run away with his lover, Meiko (played by Michiko Kichise), the wife of the president of his company. But before he is able to leave the country with Meiko, she has one request: he has to kill her husband and make it look like suicide. The plan goes well until he takes the elevator and the power gets cut, leaving him trapped with nowhere to go… Meanwhile, cop Kunie (Tetsuji Tamayama) gets beaten up by thugs who end up stealing his gun. Wanting his gun back, Kunie steals Tokito’s car, and starts the pursuit. With him is hairstylist Mikayo (Keiko Kitagawa), an innocent girl who gets caught up in the situation.
Story wise, Elevator to the Gallows has a lot of potential. I have to confess that I haven’t seen the French original, but it appears that the story is one of the strengths of that film. An advantage of not having seen the original is of course that I didn’t know what was going to happen and which way the story would be going. The story is indeed interesting and it keeps the audience wondering how it is going to end and what is going to happen to the characters. As the plot thickens, the players appear to be more connected to one another than they first appeared to be. This is one of the fun parts of the film, but unfortunately, the climax disappoints, and it feels like the fuse of a bomb that gets cut off right before the explosion. There could have been a lot more in there. There are some surprises here and there but as a thriller it doesn’t really succeed in keeping it tense the whole way through and just flows on a bit tame towards the end.
The acting is decent, but nothing special. Hiroshi Abe doesn’t have that much to do from a certain point onwards and he seems to be playing his role on the automatic pilot. The rest of the actors’ performances are satisfactory but nothing outstanding. Keiko Kitagawa’s character brings up some questions. Although it is understandable why her character is written in the story, her motives throughout the film remain a bit unclear.
It is always a shame to see a movie that looks interesting but ends up to leave you a bit disappointed. Still, Elevator to the gallows is by no means a bad film. Maybe I was expecting too much. It is entertaining and has some fun elements in the mix, but it should have been more. Maybe it is a better idea to check out the original, but if you are in the mood for a more contemporary Japanese version, then here it is.
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