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  Living Free Your Lion Eyes
Year: 1972
Director: Jack Couffer
Stars: Nigel Davenport, Susan Hampshire, Geoffrey Keen, Peter Lukoye, Shane De Louvre, Robert Beaumont, Nobby Noble, Allaudin Qureshi, Charles Hayes, Jean Hayes
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: One day Joy Adamson (Susan Hampshire) was visiting a Masai tribe to observe their warrior rituals when she received word from Nuru (Peter Lukoye), one of her husband's colleagues, that Elsa the lioness she and George Adamson (Nigel Davenport) had brought up and introduced to the wild was ailing, and that Joy should go to her straight away. She felt very close to the animal after all those years raising her and keeping in touch every time she and George were in the area - he was a game warden there in Kenya - and now there were cubs of Elsa's to look after Joy could not deny her responsibility towards them...

Living Free was the sequel to the megahit Born Free from about five years before, and considerably less successful, in spite of being based on a factual book by Joy Adamson as the first film had been. This might have been down to the lack of the stars, as real life married couple Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers had turned down the producers' offer to reprise their roles, and they had worked so well with the animals that this new pair seemed like impostors to those who had loved the previous effort. Not that Davenport and Hampshire were bad, it's simply that it was odd to see new faces recreating key scenes from the original at the beginning.

And that sense of "strangers" taking on the mantle never really deserted the film, but there were other problems as well. The main one being that here the lions were not pets anymore, but actual wild animals - certainly, the three cubs were played by trained creatures, but as the story makes evident there was no way Joy was going to pick them up and give them a cuddle this time around. A scene early on signals this when after Elsa dies - rather abruptly after the film has barely begun, no matter how much screen time she got in the first one - Joy reaches out to her cubs and gets a nasty scratch for her troubles.

So the script has to come up with a reason for the Adamsons to hang around with the beasts, and living on a game reserve isn't quite enough, there has to be a proper narrative element. This comes when not only do they have to look after the cubs from afar as it were, leaving out food and trays of their favourite cod liver oil, but the fact that the three are now scavengers as they are not big enough to catch their own prey has to be factored in as well. There is a lot of footage of the not-so-big cats cavorting, chasing and being victimised by their fellow wildlife, so much so that you'd be forgiven for forgetting Hampshire and Davenport were in the movie at all, but they do make their presences felt after a while.

The reason for that is the cubs begin to worry local villages, mainly so they can get their paws on some goats the herdsmen are looking after, so the crisis is underlined in that Elsa's offspring are now threatened with being shot dead to appease the villagers whose livelihood is at stake. Geoffrey Keen returns to tell the Adamsons that there's no two ways about it, the cubs will have to be gotten rid of, but a solution is found: if the couple can capture the rogue creatures then they can be taken to a reserve in Tanzania to live out their days not bothering anyone. So begins a supposedly tense but actually rather tedious stretch of attempted trapping which is supposed to increase suspense about whether there will be a happy ending, but after a while makes you want them to get on with it. On the plus side, the conservation aspect is well-conveyed, but you can see why it took so long for another sequel to be made. Music by Sol Kaplan, and no great theme song this time.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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