Most of us are familiar with the Born Free story, a heart-warmingly true tale of game-warden George Adamson, his wife Joy, and their fight to return an orphaned lioness back into the wild. This wondrous true adventure is so unique it comes with no surprise that it became a bestselling novel, and in 1966 an Academy Award winning film, the classic and iconic Born Free.
For the first time in the UK, Born Free is available on Blu-ray in a special Dual-format edition, released on 8th May 2017. And so for many of us it is also the first time we can experience the Adamson’s incredibly journey as the mass audiences did originally in 1966. There is no argument that Born Free is now a little dated. Despite this the film is no less enjoyable, you can still expect to become fully engrossed in the story.
George Adamson (Bill Travers) is forced to kill a lioness in self-defence and consequently brings home the three cubs it was trying to protect. Two of the cubs are sent off to zoos however the third is kept, a female named Elsa, who Joy (Virginia McKenna) has particularly bonded with. However, when Elsa is a fully grown lioness she begins to cause a whole lot of trouble for the local village, giving Joy the harsh realisation that Elsa belongs in the wild and to be free. George’s boss gives them an ultimatum, send Elsa to a zoo, or re-introduce her into the wild in just three months.
What follows is the couple’s countless attempts to teach Elsa to survive on her own. Through sheer grit and determination, they refuse to give up on her only chance of freedom. Born Free is without a doubt a tear jerker. It’s the type of film the audience becomes emotionally invested in. Every set back hits us as hard as it hits McKenna’s character Joy. The audience is rooting for Joy and Elsa throughout, captivated and eagerly awaiting Elsa’s final outcome. We know all too well that happy endings are not guaranteed when a film is based on a true story. Will she learn to fend for herself like a wild lion? Or will she be condemned to spend the rest of her days in a zoo?
Born Free is famous for its original music score and rightly so, winning two Academy awards, a Golden Globe and a Grammy. The impressive score is a truly beautiful piece of music that can be instantly recognised and will remind anyone of Born Free every time it’s heard. The score is a massive compliment to the film and will easily leave you humming the tune long after you’ve watched it.
The film is also visually stunning. Shot entirely on location in Kenya, the cinematography is simply breath-taking. We get to see closely the vast, golden savannas of central Africa in all its glory. It is worth watching just to see a cinematographic masterpiece alone, after all as viewers it’s probably as close as we’re going to get to seeing the real thing.
What is most heart-warming about Born Free is watching the incredible bond between lion and man. Virginia McKenna’s bond and relationship with the lioness that plays Elsa seems only natural and it’s hard to believe the pair are not the real deal. Their on screen chemistry is extremely believable suggesting a very real bond off the screen too.
In fact, starring in Born Free hugely influenced Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, so much so it sparked a lifelong commitment to wildlife. Therefore Born Free is more than just entertainment, it plays a pivotal part in conservation history. It is the cause of Travers and McKenna’s act of founding the international wildlife charity, the Born Free Foundation.
Born Free has inspired past generations and changed the worlds attitude to lions forever. Perhaps though, there is no better time for it to be released on Blu-ray with the current crisis of a fast declining lion population, now a brand new generation can be inspired. The film will leave you wanting to help make a difference, through teary eyes.
Dir: James Hill
Scr: Lester Cole
Starring: Bill Travers, Virginia McKenna, Geoffrey Keen
Music: John Barry