Some 40 years before Matt Damon played the title character in Anthony Minghella's “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” Alain Delon played the same role in Rene Clement's 1960 “Purple Noon,” adapted from the same novel by Patricia Highsmith (“Strangers on a Train,” “The Cry of the Owl”).
Clement changed the title but otherwise cleaved much more closely to the source material. Minghella's version is the richer film, but “Purple Noon” is itself a great thriller, refreshingly low-key by today's standards, with a nice touch of irony.
The antihero is a penniless American slacker hanging out in Italy with his apparent boyhood friend Philippe (Maurice Ronet). The two are like twins, with Philippe dominant in every way; it's pretty clear from the get-go that Ripley is going to end up stealing Philippe's life.
Criterion has digitally restored the print and transferred it to digital. There are virtually no glitches or blotches, and, judging by memory, the look is similar to theatrical prints, if a little less vivid.
The extras include a nearly 30-minute interview with film scholar Denitza Bantcheva, who provides historical context and analysis; the material is interesting enough to survive her less-than-stellar delivery.
There is also a roughly 10-minute interview with Delon from 1962 and a 19-minute visit with Highsmith from 1971.
"Purple Noon" (Criterion, Blu-ray, $39.95; DVD, $29.95)
ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on “FilmWeek” on KPCC-FM (89.3).Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun