Living Free (1972) starring Nigel Davenport, Susan Hampshire, Geoffrey Keen, Peter Lukoye, Shane De Louvre directed by Jack Couffer Movie Review

Living Free (1972)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Nigel Davenport and Susan Hampshire in Living Free (1972)

Elsa's Legacy

"Born Free" was a good movie, a touching movie which relayed the emotional side of Joy Adamson's story as she raised a lion cub called Elsa then dealt with the difficulty of having to let Elsa go. Unfortunately the sequel "Living Free" doesn't come close to the power and emotion which was delivered first time around and suffers due to many reasons including the change in actors playing Joy and George Adamson. And it is a shame as the story to "Living Free" which sees Joy and George trying to save Elsa's cubs is just as good as the original but the power of the story never manifests itself on the screen, leaving "Living Free" like a sequel made to capitalise on the popularity of the first movie, although coming 6 years after the original it most certainly isn't the case.

Some time after releasing Elsa back to the wild Joy (Susan Hampshire - Monte Carlo or Bust!) and George Adamson (Nigel Davenport - Nighthawks) find themselves in a tight spot when the lioness dies leaving 3 cubs to fend for themselves. Resisting the temptation to try and care for them it soon comes to light that these 3 orphaned cubs have been forced to pillage village live stock in order to survive and that means they must be shot. Refusing to let Elsa's legacy be destroyed, Joy and George manage to convince their boss John (Geoffrey Keen) to allow them to try and capture the 3 cubs and transport them to a new location. Unfortunately trying to capture 3 smart and mischievous cubs is not that easy especially with only so much time to do it in.

Elsa's cubs in Living Free (1972)

"Living Free" is made in a very similar style to "Born Free" as we get beautiful shots of wildlife, humour as George borders on the exasperated and the occasional narration to explain certain things. And the actual storyline is as powerful as the first movie as we watch Joy and George do everything in their power to move Elsa's 3 cubs instead of having to shoot them. But unfortunately the powerful emotion of the storyline doesn't really come across as well this time and instead of feeling like a heart felt story of passion for protecting these cubs "Living Free" ends up like a very mixed up drama which tries to recapture the magic of "Born Free" but doesn't know how to.

To be honest "Living Free" doesn't start well with a good 10 minutes spent basically recapping everything which went on in "Born Free" and with Nigel Davenport and Susan Hampshire taking over the roles of George and Joy many of the scenes have been reshot to feature them. It all feels very wrong and too long as it seems to pad out a not overlong movie with all this unnecessary recapping. And every now and then a scene, a piece of footage from the first movie is used again in the midst of the reshot scenes, making "Living Free" feel like a movie made on a shoe string budget.

Get past the overlong recap and things still aren't right as there is another overlong passage of narration as Joy tells us how hard it is for cubs to fend for themselves in the wild. We are told about poachers, other vicious scavengers and so on giving us a natural history lesson with plenty of explanatory footage which actually makes "Living Free" feel like some sort of National Geographic documentary. It is again all wrong and between this natural history lesson and the recapping the actual story, the story of Joy and George protecting Elsa's 3 cubs gets very little time. And it is a shame as the storyline is quite good, with drama, comedy as well as action and whilst the emotion doesn't come across you get a sense from the narration that it was a hard time for both Joy and George.

What also doesn't help is that Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers have been replaced by Susan Hampshire and Nigel Davenport in the roles of Joy and George Adamson. Where McKenna and Travers felt so natural and got the passion and emotion across unfortunately Hampshire and Davenport end up feeling like they are acting. It means that where McKenna and Travers were believable Hampshire and Davenport come across as rigid, actors reciting lines but not connecting with the storyline or at least not getting the connection across. And that it has to be said is a big problem because it makes "Living Free" feel like a movie going through the motions rather than really delivering the powerful storyline.

What this all boils down to is that "Living Free" whilst still an entertaining movie is not a patch on "Born Free". From the change in actors, through to the overlong recap and natural history lesson it just doesn't feel right. And whilst the storyline itself relays some of the emotion of Joy and George's battle to protect Elsa's legacy the connection to the emotion never really comes across from the acting or the way the movie is directed.