Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 88 mins .
G . PAL
Born Free took the world by storm upon its release in 1966 and, six years later, the producers decided to release a sequel. Some of the actors returned, but the two main ones, Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, would not commit to a sequel so were replaced by Susan Hampshire and Nigel Davenport – would anyone notice? Nothing against these actors in particular, but it really did seem like a case of the actor breaking a leg and being replaced by the stand in.
Somebody push me!
Now is probably a good time to mention that everything to follow may be a plot giveaway for those who have not seen Born Free. When we last saw Elsa, she had been successfully placed back in the wild, had found a mate and had given birth to three cubs. Her contact with Joy and George Adamson still continued though, bringing her cubs to visit them on many occasions. Now though, there was something wrong. Elsa had become sick and was dying and her cubs had started attacking livestock. It would now only be a matter of time before the farmers would want to stop them in the way that humans tend to find solutions – with a gun. George and Joy must find a way to stop the cubs from taking livestock before the authorities can take action.
Living Free is not a bad film overall and the thought of living up to its illustrious predecessor was always in question. The most glaring problem here is the change of cast in the main roles. Another issue is the time wasted retelling the story from the first film, even trying to convince viewers that they are seeing things by getting the new actors to re-enact the same scenes from the original, hoping the viewer will think these new actors were there all the time. This time wasting takes away from what could have been an engrossing story in its own right.
As was the case with Born Free, Living Free is also based on a book by Joy Adamson. Living Free though, seems to be more a case of “what happened next” rather than a film in its own right. Born Free contained quite a bit of narration from its star guiding the viewer, but in Living Free this is done excessively and at times it seems like the producers are not giving the viewer enough credit to work things out or even remember what happened in the first film.
Overall this is a disappointing film that seems to have been made to either make more money or to give lovers of the first film some closure in finding out what happened to Elsa. It is certainly a film that needed to be made, but it could have been done so much better than it was. The simple fact that the stars of the first film wouldn’t agree to participate should have been the first warning sign to the producers. Even though the film is not great, most viewers will want to see it, just to see what happens. So, if you don’t mind leading actors being replaced, lots of filler to spread the movie out and being shown scenes and given narration that treat viewers as not too bright, then you may enjoy this. Most though will be disappointed and are perhaps best advised to watch Born Free and just read the book of Living Free.
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and 16:9 enhanced, this transfer is quite average overall. Picture is generally sharp and detail is also good considering the age of the source material, but this is more evident in fewer scenes than others. Colours are reasonably true in most scenes and film artefacts, aliasing and grain are all quite minimal in these same scenes, however overall the picture quality is not great, simply average. Subtitles are supplied in English for the hearing impaired and these are accurate.
As was the case with Born Free, audio is again supplied in English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Dialogue is generally clear throughout and synch is never a problem. The one major plus of Born Free was the superb music of John Barry, but he failed to return for the sequel so the music comes from Sol Kaplan, who also penned the music for the original television series of Star Trek. The music in this film simply doesn’t have the impact that the first one did so the simple mono soundtrack is not such a disappointment. Overall this is a decent audio track that does its job well.
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 Born Free. All trailers are 16:9 enhanced but come in varying aspect ratios.
Overall this is a poor sequel. With Born Free being such a good film, there was never going to be a worthy sequel, but this is a pretty lame attempt. The video and audio transfers are average overall and the extras are minimal. The film is worth seeing if you want to know what happens next, although again the best recommendation may be to read the book.