For Hicksflicks.com, June 20, 2014

This double-feature DVD (on the budget Mill Creek label) is the first time "Born Free" (1966) and its sequel "Living Free" (1972, G) have been paired, and it's a delightful set.

The better film is the first, of course, based on the true story of Joy and George Adamson (Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers), who raised a lion cub they named Elsa to adulthood, training her to hunt so she could be returned to the wild.

George, a game warden in Kenya, kills Elsa's mother in self-defense, then discovers the lioness was only protecting her three cubs. So George brings them home and Joy takes the primary responsibility for raising them.

Later, when they've grown, two of the cubs are sent to zoos and Elsa becomes their experiment to see if a domesticated big cat can be retrained to survive among its own kind.


          Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers and Elsa in 'Born Free'

McKenna and Travers, married in real life, are perfect as the Adamsons, and this film prompted the actors to become activists for wild-animal rights. The movie itself is quite remarkable in capturing the Adamsons' journey with Elsa.

"Living Free," which followed six years later, has Susan Hampshire and Nigel Davenport taking over the roles, and while this film isn't quite as enthralling as the first, it's still an engaging continuation of the story as Elsa dies and the Adamsons try to train her three cubs to survive in the wild.


        Susan Hampshire, Nigel Davenport and cubs in 'Living Free'

Joy Adamson authored "Born Free," on which the first film is based. She then wrote a follow-up, "Living Free," followed by "Forever Free." Though it is titled "Living Free," the second film is actually based on "Forever Free." (Ah, Hollywood.)

John Barry won an Oscar for the title song and musical score of "Born Free."