Friday, 16 November 2018

DVD Review: Born Free: The Complete Collection

Mill Creek Entertainment * AMAZON

Now available on DVD from Mill Creek Entertainment is Born Free: The Complete Collection, featuring the films Born Free (1966; 95 minutes; PG), Living Free (1972; 91 minutes; G), Born Free: A New Adventure (1996; 91 minutes; NOT RATED), and Born Free: The Complete Television Series (1974; 826 minutes). There are no special features on the 4-disc set.

Born Free is based on the nonfiction book of the same name by the late Joy Adamson, it told the true story of George and Joy Adamson (played in the film by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna), who are living in the Northern Frontier District of Kenya when George is forced to kill a lioness. He brings home three female cubs, which they named Big One, Lustica, and Elsa. The two older lioness were eventually sent to the Rotterdam Zoo, but the couple kept Elsa, who they raised as a pet.

After Elsa caused a herd of elephants to stampede through a local village, George and Joy knew they had either two options - send Elsa to a zoo or set her free into wild. Joy is determined that the best choice is to let Elsa be free, but doing so will be a major challenge, as the couple must train Elsa to hunt in the wild.

Living Free takes the title name from Joy Adamson's second book but the plot is actually based on the author's third book, Forever Free. For the sequel, Nigel Davenport and Susan Hampshire take over the roles of George and Joy. After Elsa dies of a sudden illness, the couple make it their mission to teach Elsa's three cubs (Jespah, Gopa and Little Elsa) to hunt in the wild.

Born Free: A New Adventure is a made-for-television movie that aired on ABC in 1996 starring Chris Noth, Jonathan Brandis, and Ariana Richards. The low-budget film has very little to do with the original films. It's more of a modern reboot with a new "Elsa" lioness.

Born Free: The Complete Television Series ignores Living Free and is more of a direct sequel to Born Free. While Elsa the lioness is featured in the episodes, the plots focuses more on George and Joy Adamson's daily struggles to (played by Gary Collins and Muldaur) run a natural reserve in Kenya. The series lasted for only 13 episodes.

 Final Thoughts

I had completely forgotten about the movie Born Free until the "complete collection" arrived on DVD last month. I recall watching the movie during my childhood on a Sunday afternoon at my grandparents' home. I wasn't aware there were two other films and a television series until I learned about the DVD release.

Born Free is a beautiful film about a couple's quest to release their tamed lioness into the wild. The acting, cinematography, and music are all wonderful.

Why was the sequel called Living Free instead of Forever Free? That's the main question on my mind while watching Living Free. Also, I wonder why Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna didn't return as George and Joy. The actors who replaced them were emotionless throughout the entire film. The first fifteen-minutes is a recap of the first movie. Elsa's death wasn't really explained. The directing and cinematography is very choppy.

Despite Living Free's many problems, it's a lot better than the horrible Born Free: A New Adventure. Even with director Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III:Season of the Witch) and a decent cast, the film feels like the producers took a random script, changed the lioness name to Elsa, and slappedon the title Born Free to it. I recommend skipping the movie!

Too bad Born Free: The Complete Television Series only lasted 13 episodes as I liked it better than Living Free and Born Free: A New Adventure.

The picture and sound quality on the three movies and 13 episode are pretty decent. They haven't been restored, but they're good enough for a DVD release.

Overall, I enjoyed watching Born Free: The Complete Collection DVD set. It's definitely worth buying just to own Born Free and Born Free: The Complete Television Series. Living Free isn't perfect, and despite my nitpicking about the film, it's not all that bad. 

*Note - I received a review copy from Mill Creek Entertainment.
All opinions are my own.

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