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Film / Bush Christmas

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Bush Christmas is a 1947 film from Australia, directed by Ralph Smart.

It's the Australian bush country, specifically the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. That means it's summer and kids are riding around on horseback. The Thompson kids are excited about an impending trip to town with their father Henry to buy Christmas presents, but in the meantime, tween daughter Helen, her younger brother John, and little six-year-old brother "Snow", are out riding horses. Accompanying them are Michael, a British youngster evacuated to Australia because of the war, and Neza, an Aboriginal child of one of Henry Thompson's employees.

The kids, out in the country, run across Bill and Jim, a pair of horse thieves. The kids don't pick up on who the two men making camp are, and worse, little Snow mentions that his dad has a mare worth £200. Sure enough, come the next morning the mare and her foal gone. When the grownups won't listen to their story, the kids decide to go after the horse thieves themselves. Will they be able to rescue the mare and her foal? Will they make it back in time for Christmas?


In 1983 this film got a remake, which featured 16-year-old Nicole Kidman in her film debut.


  • Agony of the Feet: The first thing the clever children do, after taking back the horses, is to steal the boots of the horse thieves. This greatly slows the men down. Bill, older and fatter than his two criminal companions, spends much of the second half of the movie complaining about his burning feet.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: A G-rated version in which some brave children go off on a multi-day trek into the bush to rescue their horses from thieves.
  • The Cavalry: The posse led by Henry Thompson finally arrives, catching the horse thieves and saving the kids.
  • Chekhov's Skill: When the kids are goofing around in the opening scene, Neza shows that he is very good at throwing a spear. Later, he throws a spear that perforates the horse thieves' water flask, making their situation considerably worse.
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  • Christmas in July: By default! The opening narration explains that the film takes place in Australia so Christmas is in "the middle of summer."
  • Entertainingly Wrong: The horse thieves observe the footprints of the unknown people pursuing them, and specifically how those footprints are obscured by branches that must have been taped to their feet. They conclude that they are being pursued by Aborigines ("blacks") that want their stolen horses back.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: "Helen's stallion sensed danger" as the kids ride into the ghost town, where the horse thieves are lying in wait.
  • Foreign Queasine: Technically it isn't foreign. But the white kids are grossed out when Neza kills a snake and skins it so the others can eat (necessity makes them eat it), and more grossed out when Neza supplements the snake with some grubs (that's a bridge too far).
  • Free-Range Children: Well, it is the Australian outback, but the Thompson parents barely blink when their kids say they're going out camping in the bush for a couple of days.
  • Ghost Town: The horse thieves, who by this point are in a desperate state as the kids have stolen their food and destroyed their water flask as well as taken their boots, elect to set a trap. They lure the kids into a crumbling abandoned mining town and stage an ambush.
  • Hurrying Home for the Holidays: The kids wind up going deep into the bush, and worse, a heavy rainstorm comes through which wipes out their tracks, so they can't find their way back home. After this they start worrying about being lost and not being able to get back in time for Christmas.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: The bandits lock the kids in an ice chest. Now they have horses and gear again, and Bill cheerfully says "We've been in tough spots together, but as always, we've come out on top." At that moment a bullet pierces the tin cup he's holding, as The Cavalry have arrived.
  • Kids' Wilderness Epic: Some kids from Australian ranch country venture deep into the bush in pursuit of some horse thieves.
  • Narrator: A narrator provides exposition throughout the film.
  • Ominous Owl: An owl peers down on Snow as he stays behind while the other kids descend into the valley. Besides setting the mood this is plot relevant, as the distress call that the kids have agreed on is an owl hoot. So after Snow hoots to signal that another bandit (Blue) is approaching, the owl starts hooting, leading the others to think that many more bandits are on the way.
  • The Rustler: Bill and Jim, later joined by shifty horse dealer "Blue". They've stolen not just the Thompson mare and foal, but several other horses from around the area.
  • Scenery Porn: Some striking photography of Australia's Blue Mountains.
  • 20 Minutes into the Past: A 1947 film set sometime During the War. This was probably done to justify having a British boy amongst the kids, because this film was actually a British production by The Rank Organisation meant for English youth.
  • You No Take Candle: On the one hand, Neza the Aborigine boy is treated with respect by the white kids, right up to the end when he's with them for Christmas dinner. On the other hand, he says stuff like "That bad place" when the others suggest riding into the mountains, or "Me hunt" when the others wonder what they're going to do about food.