At OTB we always imagined that filming in a lift to be quite a challenge, you’ve got people getting on and off, some kid pressing all the buttons and worst of all – there’s absolutely no opportunity for any sort of camera panning.
Yet despite all this, to celebrate the release of Devil (in which actors spend the majority of the movie trapped in an elevator) on 17th September, we have produced a list of the finest lift scenes in film history. And there were some difficult calls to make.
First on our list is the scene in which Charlie Bucket breaks through the ceiling of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, in Wonka’s very own great glass elevator. Wonka then decides that said Chocolate Factory isn’t worth keeping and hands it over to Charlie, almost giving Grandpa Joe a coronary. To see the scene in question, simply turn on your television between 20th December and 3rd January…
The Blues Brothers is a flawless example of ‘elevator humour,’ even if it does come in the simplest of forms. Following being comically pursued by literally thousands of police officers, state troopers, SWAT teams, military officers and (for some reason) Nazis, Jake and Elwood Blues (John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd) head to top floor of a tax assessment building on their ‘mission from God’ to pay their taxes. In hilarious fashion, a dozen of their chasers stampede into a narrow elevator. Rather than go for the funny but obvious fart gag, the police officers simply stand side by side, squashed together, staring straight ahead in an unphased, zombie-like manner, as if what they were doing wasn’t completely insane. By this, I mean them (‘them’ being half of the USA’s authorities) chasing two unarmed men who have nothing more than to pay a few parking tickets. And that’s it. Like we said sometimes genius comedy comes in the simplest of forms.
Okay, so this scene isn’t actually set in an elevator, but it is set in an elevator shaft and involves Bruce Willis blowing it to smithereens; it was just too cool to leave out.
When a group of terrorists decide to hold the employees of a corporate skyscraper in LA to ransom, despite being well outside his area of jurisdiction, N.Y.P.D Detective John McClane decides to take on all thirteen of them…What a guy, eh? In order, to send them a justified, albeit harsh message, while using up all their precious detonators. “Take this under advisement jerkweed!” etc etc..
When the lift doors open in The Shining and hundreds of galloons of blood spill into the hotel lobby, t’s almost as if director, the late great Stanley Kubrick, was trying to present the gates of Hell themselves. Hauntingly memorable.
After undercover cop Billy Costigan captures the mob informant Collin Sullivan and ushers him into the elevator, we’re lulled into the false sense of security. Then we realise that Scorsese rarely ends a picture without a bodycount to match Robocop. The silence between Di Caprio and Damon becomes sickening and Damon’s character is the first to crack as he breaks down and sobs, “Just f***ing kill me.” Now here’s the unsavoury part: the doors open and Di Caprio is shot in the face. Unsurprisingly, a couple of other guys are then shot in the face. And just when we’re thinking that Matt Damon has gotten away with it, he gets shot in the face as well. Scorsese loves the face-shooting.