In 1960 while Alfred Hitchcock was terrorizing audiences with his masterpiece of a thriller, Psycho, director René Clément was thrilling audiences with his own brilliant thriller, Plein Soleil aka Purple Noon.
Patricia Highsmith’s first novel, Strangers on a Train was turned into an excellent thriller from Alfred Hitchcock in 1951. Purple Noon was based on her 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley. It was adapted for American TV in 1956 but this was the first theatrical version of the story. It was later remade in 1999 as The Talented Mr. Ripley with Matt Damon as Tom Ripley and Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law co-starring.
In Purple Noon Alain Delon stars as Tom Ripley. Ripley is an American who is given the task of trying to bring home from abroad the wealthy Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet). Ripley got the job by pretending to be an old acquaintance of Greenleaf even though they’ve never met. Greenleaf is in Italy living it up with his girlfriend Marge Duval (Marie Laforêt). Ripley quickly becomes obsessed with Greenleaf and his lifestyle. They start hanging out until Greenleaf starts getting bored with Ripley hanging around all the time. Tom suddenly has to take drastic measures.
Ripley ends up committing a couple of murders and more than a few lies to keep himself from getting caught. The movie is excellent. You find yourself rooting for what is essentially the twisted villain of the film. Highsmith felt of all the actors who played Tom Ripley, Alain Delon was perfect in the role and the movie skyrocketed Delon into stardom. He made several excellent films in the 1960s and 1970s including a couple of excellent crime thrillers from director Jean-Pierre Melville.
Highsmith had ended up writing five Ripley novels but the next movie adaptation didn’t happen until 1977 when Wim Wenders turned the third novel Ripley’s Game into The American Friend with Dennis Hopper as Ripley and Bruno Ganz as Ripley’s partner in crime. Highsmith wasn’t impressed when she first saw the film but after a second viewer she quite enjoyed what Wenders and Hopper brought to the character. As with all things this too was remade in 2002 as Ripley’s Game with John Malkovich as Ripley. There was one more movie in 2005, Ripley Under Ground with Barry Pepper as Ripley. I’m sure at some point in the future someone else is going to take a stab at Patricia Highsmith’s murderous con artist.