'Born Free: The Complete Collection'
(Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers, Geoffrey Keen, Nigel Davenport, Susan Hampshire, et al / 4-Disc DVD / PG-13 / 2018 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: In 1960, a book written about raising an orphaned lion cub named Elsa and then releasing her back into the wild became a worldwide bestseller. Born Free was a game changer that essentially altered the way we perceive relationships between humans and animals.
This deluxe 4-Disc collection includes the following films and TV series:
BORN FREE (1966), LIVING FREE (1972), BORN FREE: THE SERIES (1974) and BORN FREE A NEW ADVENTURE (1996).
DVD Verdict: In 'Born Free' (1966), Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers star as Joy and George Adamson. He is the game warden in a game reserve in northern Kenya; she is his wife, and together they adopt three orphaned lion cubs.
Sending two of them to zoos, the third (Elsa, who was the darling of the bunch) stays behind and becomes something of a household pet, until the inevitable day comes when she has to be either taught to live in the wild on her own, or sent to a zoo.
You find yourself rooting for Elsa, shedding a few tears with Joy and in the end feeling quite uplifted by how the whole thing turns out. It's a fast movie (about an hour and a half in length) which is good.
The editing I thought was a bit rough (although there are some great shots of Africa and its wild life), but yes, come the end, it's a great feelgood movie for the whole family.
In the low budget sequel, 'Living Free' (1972), it actually says a lot that Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna didn't return for this follow-up, which casts Nigel Davenport and Susan Hampshire as the same characters before going on to tell the same story.
The problem with this film lies with the actors, who just don't have the genuine love for the animals that the original cast members did. Particularly awful is Susan Hampshire, whose acting is embarrassingly awful: grating, overstated, sanctimonious when delivering her lines.
Even worse, Millard Kaufman's screenplay presents Joy Adamson as a selfish, self-centred and quite obnoxious character who cares only for her own enjoyment, and I'm sure this is a disservice to the real-life Adamson.
The only decent scenes in this are the scenes of the lion cubs playing and interacting with the natural world, but even these moments are spoiled by Hampshire's plummy, say-the-obvious voice-overs.
In 'Born Free: The Complete Television Series' (1974), filmed entirely on location in East Africa (where the original action took place), this sadly short-lived TV series chronicled the adventures of George and Joy Adamson (played now by Gary Collins and Diana Muldaur) with the lioness Elsa.
As aforementioned, the Adamson's were game wardens whose job was to protect the animals from poachers and natural disasters in the national park. This series also starred Dawn Lyn - for those who may not remember, she was Dody Douglass from "My Three Sons" - as one of the assistants to the Adamson's.
Out of the 13 episodes that this series produced (under executive producer David Gerber, and produced by Screen Gems/Columbia Pictures Television) this had great potential - but it was very short-lived. The series ran on NBC-TV from September 9th,1974 until December 12th,1974.
In the last one here, 'Born Free: A New Adventure' (1996), Eleanor Porter (Linda Purl) is a nurse/practitioner in a South African clinic. She is given David Thompson (Chris Noth), a Chicago biological researcher with a 2 year grant and two children (Rand, Jonathan Brandis and Jena, Lea Moreno), as her co-worker.
Eleanor has her own daughter Val (Arianna Richards), who cares for a domesticated lion cub Elsa, before she is due to be shipped to a zoo. Rand and Val want Elsa to be integrated back into the wild instead, and train her to this end. Will it work? Stay tuned to find out, my lovelies! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.