Remember The Talented Mr. Ripley? Director Anthony Minghella’s 1999 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s crime novel helped launch Jude Law to international fame, but it wasn’t the first go-around of the story. No, that honor goes to this film, produced in 1960 just a few years after the novel’s publication. As in the modern-day incarnation, the film succeeds due largely to the phenomenal casting of the complex Tom Ripley character, in this case filled by rising star Alain Delon.
Delon was in his mid-20s and just coming into fame at the time of the film’s production. He’s impossibly striking here, possessing such smoldering charisma in his early career that he ignites the screen as he puts the Ripley character through its paces. And what a character it is: a charming playboy but also a desperate killer, utilizing his charm and intelligence to further his ill begotten ascendance of the social hierarchy.
Ripley starts the film as an errand boy dispatched to Italy to retrieve young American expat Philippe Greenleaf who refuses to return home to his wealthy parents. Actually, he’s more like a bounty hunter, because he doesn’t get paid unless he’s successful in his quest. Greenleaf is enjoying a life of luxury in Italy, sponging off his parents with no intention of getting a job or returning home. He befriends Ripley and the pair cavort around the country without a care in the world. Greenleaf also has an attractive girlfriend named Marge, and the close and constant proximity of the three ultimately results in Ripley falling for her as well.
Greenleaf is portrayed as a bit of a lout, treating Ripley like his whipping boy at times, such as when he goes sailing and temporarily confines Ripley to a dinghy perilously tethered to his boat. If Ripley was a normal man, he’d probably shrug off the mistreatment or just abandon his quest. Unfortunately for Greenleaf, Ripley is actually a conniving, ruthless psychopath who ultimately realizes that he can have Greenleaf’s life for himself by removing Greenleaf from the equation. By killing Greenleaf and assuming his identity, Ripley creates the future he always envisioned for himself and even makes a play for Marge, managing to stay one step ahead of the police and Greenleaf’s family as he enjoys the fruits of his immoral labor.
The film looks spectacular on Blu-ray, with the warmth of the Italian seaside setting, especially the extensive boating scenes, perfectly conveyed in hi def with a wholly acceptable level of film grain. The boating scenes in particular made me recall Minghella’s later adaptation. Sound is uncompressed monaural, nothing special but nicely devoid of defects.
Bonus features include engrossing early black and white tv interviews with both Delon and Patricia Highsmith.