The American Friend (1977) A Cowboy In Hamburg

The American Friend (1977) movie poster film artwork photo Dennis Hopper Bruno Ganz

Haha I was totally oblivious to the fact that The American Friend was another adaptation on the famous psychological thriller novel by Patricia Highsmith about Tom Ripley. It wasn’t until I went to write this post that it all came crashing round me with a “Doh! Wolfy you should of known that” moment.

The con artist extraordinaire Tom Ripley has seen many incarnations from the probably most famous portrayal by Matt Damon in The Talented Mr Ripley to the John Malkovich starring Ripley’s Game. I had enjoyed both of these but maybe as they don’t use his surname in The American Friend, could be the reason I didn’t notice.

Now I find out there is an even earlier adaptation from 1960 with Alain Delon making him all French and sexy in directors René Clément version called Purple Noon. Now I need to track this one down.

The American Friend (1977) intro opening scene dennis hopper wim wendersThe American Friend (1977) Bruno Ganz picture framer ripleys game

I was pulled into The American Friend primarily by the amazing cover photo looking like a 70’s Martin Scorsese film cop starring Dennis Hopper and what I first thought was Harvey Keitel. On further investigating I find it was a German production directed by the excellent man with a photographers eye, Wim Wenders. (Paris Texas). A man with an incredible vision. So I find out it was not Mr Keitel that I had first thought I had spied on the cover but Swiss actor Bruno Ganz.

The American Friend (1977) painting dennis hopper wim wenders

Dennis Hopper plays Tom Ripley and the American of the title, “A Cowboy In Hamburg”. He plays his part with a slight innocence, you think he is dodgy but you’re just not sure. Friendly and open but off guard. Strangely for Hopper he is weirdly, well weirdly not too weird and that’s saying something.

The American Friend (1977) drinking together Dennis Hopper Bruno Ganz

Living in Germany, he is involved in forging artworks which get palmed off at auction where he meets a picture framer, family man Jonathan Zimmermann (Bruno Ganz) and starts up a friendship. Meeting at Jonathan framing shop to exchange small gifts and slight banter.

The American Friend (1977) dennis hopper car

It is revealed that Jonathan suffers from a rare blood disease which has numbered his days, he is unfortunately dying. After a chance meeting with a French criminal called Raoul Minot (Gérard Blain) he is persuaded to travel to Paris to carry out a “hit” on a rival gangster in the underground metro system. This hit would earn him money for his family before he dies or maybe the hope that a doctor could tell him how long he has left, reluctantly, he takes on the contract.

The American Friend (1977) Bruno Ganz paris metro tube underground

What unravels is a complex story as Jonathan is placed in bizarre situations with a host dangerous people, friends and his loving wife, as he tries to come to terms with his medical condition.

The American Friend (1977) Bruno Ganz Lisa Kreuzer record deck music vinylThe American Friend (1977) Bruno Ganz Lisa Kreuzer

Can Jonathan find peace with his son and wife Marianne (Lisa Kreuzer who played Ingrid in the excellent Radio On). Can he understand his friendship with Tom, stay ahead of the gangsters and most importantly can he find out what’s wrong with him!

The American Friend (1977) dennis hopper reel to reel tape machine

I really enjoyed this film, from all the set pieces, especially loved the 70’s Paris metro footage. Just following Jonathan’s journey as he travels across Europe and back home to Germany was very gripping as you feel so much for the character. The filming, as you can imagine is fantastic from Wim Wenders. The talented director gives what I could maybe describe as some kind of hybrid of Nu-Wave meets Film Noir but hey what do I know!

The American Friend (1977) american director Samuel Fuller

Random Wolfy Observations Big time director Samuel Fuller, The Big Red One, Shock Corridor pops up as an American mobster. As well as a collection of other directors which I’m afraid I didn’t recognise, one being Nicholas Ray.

There’s also a nice little nod to a certain iconic biker movie when Dennis Hopper gets to mention the words “Easy Rider

The American Friend (1977) beach ambulance

Have you seen it? What did you think? If you haven’t seen it, I can very much recommend you giving it a go.

Keep your eyes on the screens, sit back and scoff the popcorn and guzzle the beer. Have fun and enjoy the films…… Mikey the Wolfman


3 thoughts on “The American Friend (1977) A Cowboy In Hamburg

    1. Well Mike we’ve had a pretty great compatible hit record so far but we have to hit a few that we just don’t dig. They would be boring blogs if we loved everything I guess. I was so in the mood for this one and it grabbed me in, in all the right places. The moody brooding looks on faces and landscapes melt into one hehe. One of those films that been going around and around my head. Top marks.
      Damn man Delon is just too cool, I so need to see Purple Noon. I’m on it. Cheers buddy 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. As you pointed out, there was indeed another Ripley movie, ”Purple Noon” with Alain Delon, but I didn’t like it at all… I’ve watched it years ago and don’t remember thoroughly now, but after being impressed with Matt Damon’s performance ”Purple Noon” lacked the psychological depth and characters’ motivations. Still, you might check it out, it has 100% RT and 7.8 IMDb.


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