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The Christmas Tree (1969)

L'arbre de Noël (original title)
Since the death of his mother, Pascal, ten years old, spends his holidays with his father, the rich Laurent Segur. One day, when diving near the shores of Corse, an aircraft falls into the ... See full summary »


Terence Young


Michel Bataille (novel), Terence Young




Complete credited cast:
William Holden ... Laurent Ségur
Virna Lisi ... Catherine Graziani
Bourvil ... Verdun
Madeleine Damien Madeleine Damien ... Marinette
Mario Feliciani ... Le docteur
Friedrich von Ledebur ... Vernet (as Friedrich Ledebur)
Georges Douking ... L'animalier (as Douking)
Michel Thomass Michel Thomass ... L'ami corse
Jean-Pierre Castaldi Jean-Pierre Castaldi ... Le motard de la gendarmerie
Yves Barsacq ... Charlie le breton - le pompiste
France Daunic France Daunic ... La monitrice
Brook Fuller Brook Fuller ... Pascal Ségur


Since the death of his mother, Pascal, ten years old, spends his holidays with his father, the rich Laurent Segur. One day, when diving near the shores of Corse, an aircraft falls into the sea. The holiday goes on happily with Catherine, the young and pretty girlfriend of Laurent. But soon blue marks appear on the face of Pascal. He has been contaminated by a nuclear weapon carried by the destroyed plane, and he won't survive more than six months. There is nothing Laurent can do, except give his son the best six months he has ever lived. Written by Christophe Tronche <tronche@lri.fr>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


"The Christmas Tree" is an Extraordinary Love Story...An Adventure That Could Have Happened Only in This Place In This Time. When a Lifetime Doesn't Take Too Many Years See more »




G | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


In the Italian-dubbed version, the name of the kid is "Marcel" instead of "Pascal". See more »


Referenced in Terence Young: Bond Vivant (2000) See more »

User Reviews

THE Christmas TREE (Terence Young, 1969) **1/2
31 December 2011 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

This was shown at Christmastime on local TV in the late 1980s, back when Leslie Halliwell's conservative Film Guide was the 'Bible' of movie-reviewing tomes – and, since he had disparagingly labelled this "the most lachrymose film of the sixties", I missed out on it! Mind you, this does provide the double threat of being an all-stops-out 'weepie' with child interest – of which quite a few, oddly enough, were made in Europe around this time (including MISUNDERSTOOD {1966} and THE BALLOON VENDOR {1974}, which was a big hit when released in theaters locally)!

By the way, I now caught up with this on Italian TV and, incidentally, in spite of a British director and an American star (William Holden), this is a Franco-Italian co-production, with those countries represented in the principal cast by Bourvil and Virna Lisi respectively. Actually, only the last act deals with the titular decoration and the period itself and, given the subject matter, I am sure it was chosen with ironic intent: in fact, here we have a boy who is fatally stricken with leukemia when exposed to radiation – in a scene virtually replicating the one in the sci-fi classic THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957)! – on the coast of Corsica (where he had gone ostensibly to spend the summer holidays with the industrialist father he barely knew). The latter was nearby (albeit safely underwater) when a plane exploded on top of the child (sitting in a dinghy) and, while killing its occupants, managed to release a parachute containing an atomic bomb into the sea!

Upon learning of this condition (which he naturally keeps from his son at first, by pretending he is the sick one!), the star dedicates himself to the boy unconditionally by taking up residence at a French country-side château he owns (with widower Holden's new girlfriend Lisi coming to visit from time to time). Looking after this property, then, is well-meaning but cantankerous handy-man Bourvil – in fact, it is during an argument with his boss (which is unwittingly overheard by the boy) that the latter gets wind of the true nature of their isolation! Anyway, at this point, Holden cannot refuse the kid anything – even when he requests a wolf for a pet. Since his father and Bourvil had served in WWII together, they were no strangers to dangerous missions – and so it is that they infiltrate a zoo and steal a male and female wolf (Bourvil having read in a book they would not survive apart!). The scene of their capture itself is pretty vivid, as the beasts do not take kindly to the intruders and fight back (injuring Holden) – later, there is a suspenseful moment while transporting the stolen 'cargo' at a gas-station as a couple of policemen want to inspect their vehicle and the men have to use their wits in order to get out of this scrape!

Speaking of animal violence, another strong scene involves the vicious attack by the wolves on a 'mad' steed (who has run away from under his own master, a Holden acquaintance, played by Friedrich Ledebur) – with the horse being eventually put down, actually an act of empathy, by the star! To be honest, though, it is this element above all else which renders the film palatable (though Henri Alekan's cinematography and the score by Georges Auric also help in this regard). The anti-nuclear message, on the other hand, is laid on too thick – with recurring noises of jets flying overhead, at which Bourvil utters accusingly (but also rather desperately), "Assassins"! – ironically enough, the actor would himself die the very next year, at just 53, of a rare disease! As for the child's inevitable death scene (surprisingly, he is not shown to be suffering all that much considering, but I should point out here that the copy I watched ran for just 97 minutes against the film's official length of 110!), this thankfully occurs off-screen – with Holden alerted to the tragedy by the howling of his two loyal pets (for the record, the film was released on VHS in the U.S. under the title WHEN WOLVES CRY!).

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France | Italy


French | English

Release Date:

25 September 1969 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

When Wolves Cry See more »


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Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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