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Michel D. (michelann) from WALNUT GROVE, MO Reviewed on 10/23/2018...
The ultimate in movies based upon true stories! Following Elsa and her people as the young lioness grows up is a moving and beautiful experience that is never boring. Great photography of the savannas of central Africa well restored for DVD.
Intelligent and very touching adaption of Elsa's story
stardustraven | Europe | 11/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I grew up reading Joy Adamson's trilogy about Elsa, the lioness ['Born Free', 'Living Free' and 'Forever Free'], and Elsa has remained always very dear to my heart, an unforgettable furry heroine. This film is an excellent and truthful adaption of Mrs. Adamson's wonderful book. In the late 1950's Kenyan Game Warden George Adamson and his wife Joy became the foster parents of three female lion cubs whose mother had been killed by mistake. They eventually decided to send two cubs away to a zoo and keep the smallest cub which had become the most dear to them. This was Elsa and she would acquire world fame. Much joy and heartbreak followed when the Adamsons ultimately decided to rehabilitate Elsa back into the wild. Since in their opinion that is where she belonged. After a difficult adjustment they were rewarded with success.This film which was shot on location in Kenya and directed by Tom McGowan and James Hill is a remarkably intelligent and truthful adaption. It follows Elsa from cub hood to motherhood and superbly brings to life the joys and heartbreak which Elsa and the Adamsons went through together. Much of this is due to the excellent, dedicated and vibrant performances of Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna (who are real life husband and wife) as the Adamson couple. The Travers couple worked closely with George Adamson who was an advisor for this film in regard with the lions. Since they aimed at natural performances by the lions. Friendship would develop between the Travers and the Adamsons and they bonded firmly with the lions. After this film the Adamsons would continue with the rehabilitation of big cats back into the wild and the Travers besides acting went into wildlife conservation.Since the heroine of this film is a furry one, something certainly needs to be said about the lionesses, lions and cubs who gave such wonderful and gripping performances here. The part of Elsa was taken by the lionesses Girl, Mara and Henrietta and the dedication and love of George Adamson and the Travers brought them to outstanding performances. A film with many funny, comic, touching and sometimes heart wrenching moments and there's also the gorgeous Kenyan scenery to enjoy. It has rightly become a classic!"
Beautifully crafted, heart-warming classic.
Madhura de Silva | Colombo, Sri Lanka | 12/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Born Free" is a true story about the adoption of a wild lion cub by a game warden in Kenya and his wife who are eventually confronted with two choises, either carrying out the tedious task of introducing the cub back to the wild in three months, or sacrificing her freedom by giving her to a zoo. The two people go through everything that is inevitable when you have a large cat for a pet. The film has its share of emotional moments like when the Adamsons get the cubs to lap up milk for the first time, and the time when the adolescent Elsa is isolated for a few days and is found wounded and unstable. But they are well balanced out with the amusing situations like Elsa riding on the hood of the truck and her bringing a two year-old elephant calf to the camp etc. The film is so polished and of high quality that unless one is aware that it was made in '66, he/she will undoubtedly be lead to think that it was made in at least 1980. I was really surprised. I will add however, that I watched the film on TV yesterday for the first time and that is what my review is based on. Anyway I doubt the VHS is any different. So clever is the film in getting its points and objectives across that even people who aren't into wildlife movies will enjoy this, as I observed while I was watching. You have to admit, you don't often see a lioness swimming in the ocean and playing "foot" ball, do you? Also, the film runs for around 1 hour & 40 minutes. Long enough for you? I strongly recommend this film to anyone."
Watch it and cry again
save_dee | Montréal, Canada | 11/14/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie 25(?) years ago and cried as a little girl. Now that I am 38 and I watched it again from a completely different perspective, I think I cried even more. This is a movie that ALL must see!! It is the most heart-warming story ever written. I am so glad that Joy and George Adamson shared their story of Elsa with the rest of the world!!!!"
Great family film that stands the test of time!
Monika | Davis, California | 08/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on a true story, as told by Joy Adamson in her book of the same title, this 1966 film remains compelling today. The movie follows the adventure of a British couple, game warden George Adamson and his wife (Joy, author of the book), living in Kenya in the 1950s, who become surrogate parents for a litter of three orphaned lion cubs. When the mother is shot in self-defense, the Adamsons bring the cubs into their home, planning to turn them over to the Rotterdam Zoo as soon as the zoo is ready to receive them. However, Joy forms a strong bond with the smallest of the cubs, whom she names Elsa, and ultimately cannot bear to part with her. So while Elsa's siblings eventually depart for the zoo, Elsa herself stays with the Adamsons. At first all goes well, but as Elsa grows into a mature lioness, it quickly becomes apparent that she cannot remain with her human family. And so, rather than send Elsa to a zoo and subject her to life in a cage, Joy is determined to do something no one has ever done successfully before - teach a tame lion to survive in the wild, and ultimately set her free.
The acting is good, with real-life couple Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna playing George and Joy Adamson (McKenna also narrates the story as Joy via voice-over, pulling passages from the book). There are a few places where the dialogue seems slightly forced, but for the most part it is very sincere. The real star of the show, though, is Elsa herself, actually played by three different lionesses. You can really see the genuine affection between the large cat and her caretakers as they interact. It is magical to watch.
"Born Free" relies on none of the modern-day tactics for holding an audience's attention. There is very little violence of any sort, no gore, no explosions, no sweeping romance, no sex, and as far as I could tell, not even a single swear word. The only fight scene is one between two lions, and the only chases are lions going after prey. Yet the movie maintains the ability to captivate a viewer entirely. It may hold the highest appeal for children, but animal-loving adults are sure to love it, too. I first saw this movie as a kid, but when I recently re-watched it after many years I was happy to find that it remained thoroughly enjoyable. I would warn, though, that very small children may possibly be frightened by the lion attack scene at the very beginning. The attack itself is now shown, but the lion's leap and the victim's scream are. I remember being a little unnerved by this part when I was little, so if you have a very young child, it may be best to watch this scene yourself first to determine whether it's likely to bother them.
The one thing that worries me a bit about this story is the fact that the Adamsons actually used gunshots to call Elsa to them. Even at the end of the film, Elsa still displays no fear of either guns or humans. Such a lack of fear can be quite very detrimental to a wild animal, particularly in an area where lions are often shot to protect livestock. I don't fault the makers of the movie at all, since this is based on events as they really happened and the movie couldn't have been filmed differently without altering the story, but it's still a little worrisome.
The entire movie was filmed on location in Kenya, and the scenery is gorgeous. Unfortunately, the picture quality is not as crisp as you would see in movies made today. However, it is full color and still quite decent. The sound quality is slightly disappointing. It is occasionally difficult to make out what is being said, but turning up the volume enough to hear the dialogue clearly in turn makes the music a little too loud for comfort. I have no idea if either the picture quality or the sound have been touched up at all in the DVD version, as I only own the VHS, but neither is enough of a problem to interfere with the enjoyment of the movie, and one can easily forgive these things in a movie made nearly four decades ago. On the whole, this is a terrific family film and is just as touching and fun as it must have been when it first came out. And if you're the type that gets a kick out of watching your cats watch TV, this one has the potential to catch their interest as well, as it did mine."
Edward B. Balazs | Manhattan Beach, CA United States | 07/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've probably seen this movie somewhere between 15 to 20 times since I was a kid. (I also read the book many moons ago.) It never ceases to entertain and is guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes by the time the song "Born Free" resounds at the end. Born Free is the wonderful true story of the raising of Elsa, the lioness, by Joy and George Adamson (sorry to correct another reviewer, but Virgina McKenna was the actress who played Joy Adamson, so it's not the story of Elsa and the McKenna's). The story is heart warming, can be seen by the whole family, & will make you want to book a trip to Kenya when it's all said and done. No question, this is one of my favorites of all time!"