At the time of the film's release, the critic Raymond Borde would have had no difficulty glossing this image. Here is what he wrote of the protagonist in Les Temps modernes (April 1958):
'Julien Tavernier, a captain in the parachute regiment who has served in Indochina and Africa. He left the army to become the right hand man of an arms dealer. His faithful batman still calls him "my captain" with a tremble in his voice. The memory of glorious round ups, of Oradour, of massacres and rapes. […] A modern hard man, a thirty-five year old paratrooper, a neo-Nazi capitalist, those are the three reference points of Louis Malle’s inner dream. In every sense of the word, Ascenseur pour l’échafaud is a Fascist film.'