Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 91 mins .
G . PAL
Based on the book by Joy Adamson, Born Free is a classic film telling the story of husband and wife conservationists Joy and George Adamson. The film was released in 1966 and became an instant hit, mainly for the cute antics of its stars, the lion cubs. The major benefit, however, was the awareness it provided to the general public on the plight of wildlife in Africa from its main aggressor – man. Joy Adamson died in 1980 at the hands of poachers, but her legacy lives on. For those yet to see this classic family film, here is a brief synopsis.
While in the bush of Africa, George Adamson (Bill Travers) happens across a lioness. She is aggressive and George shoots her, only to discover she was protecting her cubs. George decides to take the three cubs home rather than leave them to fend for themselves. Joy Adamson (Virginia McKenna) adopts the cubs, giving them the run of the house.
They decide that they would like to raise the cubs and one day release them back into the wild, but three growing cubs are more than they can handle. They decide to focus on one cub – Elsa. The major problem they face though is that while raising Elsa to adulthood, she has become domesticated and the task of teaching her how to become a wild animal again is a massive one.
Born Free is a classic film that everyone should see at least once in their lives. It was made in a time prior to political correctness and at a time when the English were portrayed as stiff upper lipped, but for anyone seeing this for the first time, take into account those factors and you will be sure to fall in love with this film. It comes across very much as a documentary with no CGI lions placed with actors; this is actually the actors interacting with these massive animals. It is doubtful these days that any major star would be allowed to put themselves in this much danger.
The two main stars, McKenna and Travers, are well suited in their roles, but it is the lions that are the stars of this film, as it should be. The story may be a bit slow at times by today’s standards, but hang in there, it is worth it. The musical score for this film gained two Oscars for best score and the memorable them song Born Free. Penned by John Barry who also created such memorable scores as that of Dances With Wolves and Out of Africa along with perhaps his most memorable tune the James Bond Theme as well as the theme song for Goldfinger. The music plays a major role in this film, elevating the viewer on many occasions and also adding to the more tender moments.
If you have never seen this film, make sure you do. For everyone else, this film may have aged over the years but it still holds its major appeal. It is both entertaining and educational but be warned, the next step after seeing this film is usually to add a feline or canine member to the family and name them Elsa.
Presented in its original ratio of 2.35:1 and 16:9 enhanced, the expectation for a film almost 40 years old was not high. They have done quite a good job here though, with sharpness being generally of a high standard. Grain is also minimal and colours are generally true, although the other expected intrusions such as film artefacts, telecine wobble and aliasing are present but quite minimal. There is some edge enhancement and poor shadow detail, yet these are never major problems when considering the age of the source material. Subtitles are supplied in English for the hearing impaired and these are accurate to what is said on screen and placed well to follow the character speaking.
The default audio for this film comes in English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, which is a disappointment where the music is concerned. Still, for everything else it does a reasonable job. Dialogue is always clear and synch is never a problem. There are no major problems with hiss or distortion and although a surround track would have been nice, particularly for the superb music score, this isn’t too bad overall.
In the extras department we are given a theatrical trailer which runs like an old newsreel film. Also, we are given teaser trailers for the films Running Free, Stuart Little 1, Stuart Little 2 and Living Free. All trailers are 16:9 enhanced, but come in varying aspect ratios.
Overall this is a classic film that has made the transition to DVD well. The picture looks good for its age and the audio mix is only basic but does serve its purpose. The extras are minimal, although this can be excused due to this release containing two films on the one disc. If you have never seen Born Free, give it a try. For the rest of us, relive this touching story about the most famous lion that ever lived.