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Games keepers who raised a lion in their home have to deal with her mischievous cubs.
In Kenya, wildlife conservationists Joy Adamson and her husband George make plans to save lioness Elsa and her cubs from the increasing danger of poachers. As Joy considers where to relocate the lion family, she remembers how she and George became involved with Elsa: Years earlier, Joy and George adopt Elsa and her two sisters as cubs, after senior game warden George is forced to kill their mother when she attacks him. The Adamsons delight in caring for the three energetic cubs, but realized as the animals grow that they can not keep them, and Elsa's two sisters are eventually sent to a zoo in Holland. Having developed a special relationship with Elsa, however, the Adamsons keep her with them in their camp in the bush until the young adult lioness begins to inadvertently cause havoc in local villages, starting an elephant stampede and terrifying the natives. When George's boss, Chief Warden John Kendall, insists that they give Elsa up, Joy, who refuses to consider sending the lion to a zoo, convinces George to help her train Elsa to live in the wild and regain her natural instincts. Although suffering many challenges and setbacks over six months, which includes Elsa coming close to death, Joy and George ultimately succeed in returning Elsa to the wild where she finds a mate. In the present, whenever the Adamsons camp in Elsa's territory she brings her three cubs to visit. On George's advice, Joy reluctantly refrains from touching the cubs to keep them wild, but does offer them food and treats. Soon the young cubs, whom Joy names Jespah, the most intelligent and brave, Little Elsa, the only girl and smallest, and Gopa, the Swahili word for timid, become confident near the Adamsons and their houseman Nuru and grow especially fond of cod liver oil. One day when Joy is in Nairobi on business, Elsa seeks out George and collapses. Although George summons Joy, by the time she returns to the bush, Elsa has died from what George suspects was an infection. Upon learning that the cubs have disappeared and there is no sign of the father lion, Joy grows alarmed as the youngsters are too young to feed themselves. Several nights later, when Joy spots the cubs near Elsa's grave, she excitedly reaches for Jespah only to receive a frightened swat across the hand. As George tends to her wound, he acknowledges that the cubs will need assistance and offers to take a six-week leave-of-absence to help Joy. Initially hopeful about locating the cubs, the Adamsons end up spending George's entire leave searching in vain for the animals despite leaving out tins of cod liver oil and food. While George returns to work, Joy travels to Tanzania to make inquiries at the Serengeti Wildlife Sanctuary and returns to tell George of her certainty that if they can capture the cubs, the reserve will take them. Over the next several weeks the cubs struggle with the wildlife around them, while Joy and George resume leaving them food, hoping to locate their den. Soon, however, John visits the Adamsons to inform them that the cubs have been reported attacking local goat farms. Feeling guilty for having introduced the young animals to goat meat, George meets with village elders to pay for their losses and plead with them not to attack the hungry cubs. When John returns to tell the Adamsons that simply keeping the cubs away from one particular village is not enough, Joy reveals her plans to transport them to the safety of the Serengeti Sanctuary. Aghast as the park is more than seven hundred miles away, John declares the plan impossible, but agrees to speak to associates at the reserve about the cubs. When George announces his intention to resign to devote all his energy to locating and capturing the cubs, John agrees to allow the couple three months to find them. George's assistant game keeper, Makedde, offers to leave with George to help the couple. With Makedde's assistance, George returns to the goat village where the men and elders set up a complex warning system to watch for the cubs and protect the goats. After several more weeks, the Adamsons locate the area where the cubs live and, using food and cod liver oil, lure them away from the village further into the bush. In Nairobi one afternoon, John discovers Joy in the bank covering an overdraft with the couple's savings and scolds her before revealing that the Serengeti has officially agreed to take the cubs. The Adamsons use the bulk of their savings to purchase a special truck and build special cages for each of the cubs. Over several weeks Joy, George, Makedde and Nuru leave food near and in the cages allowing the cubs to grow used to the contraptions. George and Joy have agreed not to use tranquilizers on the young animals for fear the drug might cause them harm, but are then faced with the challenge of luring all three cubs into the cages simultaneously. One evening, a sudden flash flood nearly wipes out the Adamsons' camp. Hastening to check on the cages, George and Joy are amazed to find each cub inside a cage, but when George cuts the rope to close the cage doors, the pulley breaks. The noise frightens the cubs who immediately dart away. Exhausted and knowing that the cubs will not return to a suspicious area, the Adamsons move the cages to higher ground and again begin the tedious process of overcoming the cubs' fear of the cages. With only three days left in their allotted time, Joy is awakened one night by a crash and, running to the cage area, is stunned to find George and Makedde watching all three cubs caught in their respective cages. The group then hurries off to Tanzania with Makedde driving the truck and the Adamsons following in their Rover. After a long and arduous trip across small, unpaved roads, as the trucks enter Tanzania, an errant rock slices the brake line on the truck, sending the large vehicle thundering down a hill. George daringly maneuvers the Rover around and directly in front of the truck to act as a literal brake for the vehicle. After a harrowing descent, both vehicles stop and the cubs are found to be unharmed. Upon arriving happily at the Serengeti, Joy and George prepare to remain in the park to help the cubs adjust to their new surroundings, but are dismayed to learn they will not be allowed. A park warden explains that the reserve provides food for the animals and forbids any human presence there. Although saddened, Joy and George realize that this is best and, after luring the cubs out of their cages with one last tin of cod liver oil, they watch as Jespah, Gopa and Little Elsa scamper out on to the plain, safe and free.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||G||Premiere Info:||Los Angeles opening: 21 Jun 1972|
|Release Date:||1972||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Color (Eastmancolor)||Distributions Co:||Columbia Pictures|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Open Road Films, Ltd., Highroad Productions, Inc.|
|Duration(mins):||88-92||Country:||Great Britain and United States|
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