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Blu-ray & DVD Review

DVD cover

Born Free (1966)
(Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)


Starring: Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £14.99 (Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)
Certificate: U
Release Date: 08 May 2017

When game warden George Adamson is forced to kill a lion and lioness that has been terrorising the locals, he and his wife Joy adopt their three cubs. Two are sent off to zoos, but the third is kept – a female they name Elsa – to which they have become particularly attached. When Elsa becomes a full grown lioness, the Adamsons realise that she must be set free and taught to survive on her own...

Those of us of a certain age will remember this film from their childhood. While I wasn't born when it was originally released, I did watch it a few times growing up. I haven't seen it for years, so was interested to see how it fared compared to my memory.

In truth it's aged quite well. This is mainly down to the impressive wildlife photography, the fact that the actors do interact a lot with the lions in the film and, of course, John Barry's lush score.

The acting is a little cheesy at times, but this is more a fault of the script than the actors. Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers were married in real life and so the onscreen chemistry is very natural. The two would go on to be animal rights activists. Sadly, Travers passed away in 1994, but McKenna is still campaigning for the rights of animals.

Extras include an audio commentary with film historians Jon Burlingame, Julie Kirgo, and Nick Redman; Born Free Foundation: The Spirit of Elsa (17 min, 40 sec featurette on the Born Free Foundation's work in Kenya, which sees them conducting a lion census as well as their work education the locals on how to help preserve the lion population); Born Free Foundation: Elsa the Lioness Rescue (5 min, 44 sec featurette that follows the Born Free Foundations rescuing animals after a court order bans an Italian circus from keeping wild animals. One of these animals is a lioness called Elsa); Born Free Foundation - 2016 Promotional Video (2 min, 27 sec); Theatrical Trailer (3 min, 22 sec); and Teaser Trailer (59 sec).

For audio we get the standard stereo soundtrack; and Isolated M&E (Music & Effects) track. Although I can't fathom why the effects were included. Surely an isolated track of the score would have been the more sensible choice.

The audio commentary is well worth a listen, especially when the conversation turns to John Barry and his incredible score. It was interesting to learn that the closing song, sung by Matt Monro, was cut from the theatrical movie. It was only reinserted when another artist rerecorded the song and it rocketed into the charts. It was then the producers realised that they may get an Academy Award nomination if they inserted it back into the film.

It was also interesting to learn that the real events didn't happen like the end of the movie depict. Elsa didn't join a pride of lions (a lone lioness would have be killed by the other lionesses). She was still in the camp and died of an illness she picked up from a tick bite. Joy was away when Elsa died, but Elsa did leave behind three cubs. Also, the relationship between George and Joy wasn't a close one, as depicted in the movie. She was apparently a very difficult person and the two led very separate lives.

As we've come to expect from Eureka Entertainment, this is a first rate release of an old classic. If you don't own this now is the perfect time to add it to your collection.


Darren Rea

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Blu-ray & DVD