14 June 2017



Aw, this is one of the sweetest and most memorable family films ever made, with a song that's instantly recognisable and also just a tad annoying, haha. The film was based on the real-life experiences of Joy Adamson and her husband, as documented in her non-fiction book from 1960.

In the film, one of the most popular at the British box office in 1966, Joy and her hubby, George Adamson, are working on a wildlife reserve in Kenya when a life-changing experience occurs.
I would have thought that living on a nature reserve in Africa would have been life-changing enough on its own for a couple of English people, but no, they had to go and have an extra life-changing experience into the bargain, the snooty toffs!

Ah, I'm only joking. It's a lovely book and an even lovelier film. Let's take a look at what actually happens anyway, shall we?

So, the life-changing experience occurs when George Adamson, played by the handsomely- bearded but rather smug-looking Bill Travers, is obliged to shoot a Daddy lion and a Mammy lion, Daddy because he's been scaring the bejeesus out of the native villagers and Mammy out of self-defence.

The truly astonishing thing about all this happens when George discovers that the pair of lions have left behind three of the most adorable baby lion cubs you've ever seen. George takes 'em home to an absolutely delighted Joy, and the two English peeps decide to keep them, not unnaturally. As if, after seeing how cute they are, you could possibly do anything else!

It's really quite extraordinary to see the way that the lions wander freely around the Adamson house and grounds while they're growing up, knocking things over willy-nilly and chasing each other over chairs and around tables as if they were boisterous little kids.

The Adamsons, truly an animal-loving couple if ever there was one, take it all in their stride, only occasionally coming out with a mildly-uttered 'tsk, tsk!' as if they were telling off a naughty toddler who's just pooped on the living-room rug during potty-training.

The sad day comes, however, when the lions are fully-grown and have to be sent off to Rotterdam Zoo. It's uncanny the way that it's so like sending your darling children off to school for the first time. Only two lions go to the Zoo, however. Joy's undoubted favourite, her pet, is allowed to stay behind...

Elsa the Lioness is more like a beloved child than an animal to the Adamsons, and to Joy in particular. Joy practically lives for Elsa and Elsa adores Joy in return. How on earth will Joy cope when Elsa accidentally causes an elephant stampede through a local village and George's boss, John Kendall, gives the couple a heartbreaking but unavoidable ultimatum, send Elsa to the Zoo or return her, domesticated as she is, to the wild...?

When Joy and George try to accustom Elsa to fending for herself on the African plains, it's a bit like when Krusty the Klown from THE SIMPSONS sends his monkey sidekick Mr. Teeny back to the wilds of nature in one episode of the hit animated comedy show.

Mr. Teeny wears a tuxedo, smokes cigars and is used to boozing it up big-time, gambling in the glittering casinos of Las Vegas and- ahem- taking illegal narcotics right alongside the dissolute clown he works for. The apes in the wild will make shite of him, if you'll excuse my French...! It's a bit like that for poor Elsa.

I was breaking my heart crying when the Adamsons had to keep abandoning poor Elsa on the plains on her own in the hopes that the concept of natural living might 'take.' My friend, on the other hand, who believes in tough love, kept saying that it was the couple's own fault for having separated Elsa from her siblings in the first place and bringing her up as a tame domestic pet, instead of letting Nature take its course. 

I really felt sad for the Adamsons and Elsa, however, so there are obviously two schools of thought on the matter. Were they right or wrong to do what they did? Which way was better? You guys will have to make up your own minds, I guess.

Joy and George are such a perfectly prim English couple, with their immaculately posh cut-glass accents and their separate beds, haha. I love the scene in the tent where they're keeping guard for a rogue lion. Joy is wearing the top half of a pair of sensible flannel pyjamas and George is sporting the lower half of the same pair. So sweet!

No doubt sex is accomplished in pitch darkness, lying down, of course, and George saying 'Ah, excuse me, my dear' when he- ahem- attains his climactic moment. Joy would of course respond with a polite 'Not at all, George dear,' and that's all that unpleasant business over and done with for another year, haha.

This charming little film, with its stunningly beautiful African scenery and positively none of the sexual crudeness just evinced by myself, I swear, is out now on special release from EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT. It comes in a spiffing Dual Format Edition complete with some really nice special features.

The BORN FREE song is in there too, of course, the song that was performed by Matt Monro. With music by John Barry and lyrics by Don Black, it was written especially for the film and won the Oscar for BEST ORIGINAL SONG IN A FILM, an amazing achievement and one, no doubt, that kept the royalties clinking in the coffers of Messrs. Barry and Black for quite a few years to come.

Anyway, enjoy the film, a family film that can be seen by everyone from kids to Reverend Mothers alike without causing offence. Modern animal experts may of course have differing views to those of the Adamsons' but there's no doubt that the couple acted out of the pure love of the wild creatures whom they were there to study and protect. If you can stomach the mildly irritating theme song, you're in for a most enjoyable- and heartbreaking- viewing experience...!

Born Free gives us a deep deep myth – and it’s a very encouraging myth – that we are at one with nature. Death and destruction and pain and agony are not part of that myth. They happen to be part of the natural world”
David Attenborough
Beautifully shot, brilliantly scored by John Barry and sensitively staged by director James Hill, this charming adaptation of Joy Adamson's bestseller is one of the great animal films.” – David Parkinson, Radio Times
Without minimizing the facts of animal life or overly sentimentalizing them, this film casts an enchantment that is just about irresistible” – New York Times
a nicely restrained children's tearjerker that doesn't overdo the anthropomorphism, despite extreme provocation.” – Chicago Reader

BORN FREE (New and Exclusive) Trailer https://youtu.be/77C6wRRfzgA
Available to order from: Amazon http://amzn.to/2lflHhU

Stunning High-Definition presentation
Uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Isolated score track
Audio Commentary with Film Historians Jon Burlingame, Julie Kirgo, and Nick Redman 
Spirit of Elsa – a featurette on the Born Free Foundations work in Kenya
Elsa the Lioness 60th Anniversary – a short featurette about Elsa, the lioness whose story is the basis for Born Free
Promotional featurette, generously provided by the Born Free Foundation
Original Theatrical Trailers


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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