I’m probably one of the few writers who would even come up with an article including Grizzly Adams and Silent Night, Deadly Night in the same paragraph, but weird is weird and find Charles Sellier (sometimes called Charles Sellier, Jr.) weird. Or maybe weird is the wrong word, maybe he’s just a huckster.
Charles Sellier died in January of 2011 and was a footnote on the history of entertainment for a slew of cheap titles, but freethinkers and faith-based purveyors of entertainment should take note. What he did is still going on in family friendly films or “faith-based” films because, ultimately, this kind of entertainment comes down to exploitation for money. No one seems to think there is such a thing as “family friendly film exploitation” or even “Christian film exploitation,” but that is exactly what’s going on. It’s no different than blaxploitation or other exploitation films that cater to a certain crowd that will pay money regardless if what is produced is mediocre or outright crap. It’s the idea that “safe” is good and anything slapped with an “R” rating is unfit for a sanctified mind. The only major exception I can think of is the masterful exploitation by Mel Gibson and his Passion of The Christ because Christ beating is acceptable violence.
I’m not referring here to target marketing. All film companies figure out who their audience is. What I’m really referring to is cheap entertainment that producers know will be bought or viewed because of an audience that can be exploited. If the producers had an opportunity to produce a film based on a Shakespeare play resulting in a family-safe production of fine art and a rehashed film about a big, lovable dog that brings a struggling Christian family towards god, which one are they going to pick? The dog movie–it has more potential to make money.
Recently, on a whim, I picked up the first season of Grizzly Adams at the local Target store. It was an approved-of show in a prudish home when I was a kid and I watched it regularly on Sunday afternoon reruns. I can’t say I was a fan of the show, but it did have an appeal with the wilderness and the wild animals and the supposed freedom of living alone with a big bear. Now as an adult, watching Grizzly Adams is like watching a cartoon. It has some nostalgic appeal, but the storylines are awful–incredibly awful considering there was a real Grizzly Adams who was ten times more interesting than this wimpy, PETA version of the mountain man.
What kind of mountain man would stop a trapper from shooting a turkey for his dinner? That’s exactly what Grizzly Adams did when he first met Mad Jack and his mule Number Seven in an early episode. And then Adams offers his jerky as a trade off to chowing down on juicy turkey (as if the killing of a turkey is worse than the killing of cows?). The whole show features a man-child who doesn’t seem to understand nature and yet mystically attracts the friendships of all kinds of critters like The Beastmaster (the 1982 Don Coscarelli fantasy film). It’s absurd and insulting to your intelligence.
The real Grizzly Adams did tame bears, he even used them as pack animals, but he also killed them and captured them for exhibition. He trapped, he hunted and he died from wrestling bears in the circus that exacerbated a previous bear wound to the head. This Grizzly Adams was not necessarily a bad guy for the time period he lived in (though now we would find some of his activities appalling) and he obviously had an understanding of how brutal nature can be. The Grizzly Adams in Sellier’s show is so watered down and weak and without historical value that you wonder why it was even called Grizzly Adams?
So how does all this lead to Silent Night, Deadly Night–the infamous 1984 Christmas horror movie that upset parents and critics alike? Charles Sellier produced and directed both. You might ask, big deal? Bob Clark did the same thing with Black Christmas (1974) and A Christmas Story (1973), except, Grizzly Adams was just one of Sellier’s family offerings. He specialized in family films and Christian offerings. Mixed in were psychic phenomena and pseudoscience documentaries. It’s no wonder we have a confused public when it comes to religion and science. Here are just a couple of his family friendly productions for Christians:
1976 In Search of Noah’s Ark
1979 In Search of the Historic Jesus
1979 Greatest Heroes of The Bible
1993 Ancient Secrets of the Bible
1993 The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark
2004 The Evidence for Heaven
2004 George W. Bush: Faith in the White House
2006 Miracles in our Midst
2006 Apocalypse and the End Times
2007 The Case for Christ’s Ressurection
According to Wikipedia, Sellier considered himself to be an Evangelical Christian. Previously, he was raised Catholic and then converted to Mormonism until becoming born again. So why would an Evangelical Christian direct Silent Night, Deadly Night? A movie that starts out with a family road trip singing holiday tunes until they are accosted by a felon who proceeds to shoot the father, molest and stab the mother and then traumatize the young boy who is an eyewitness to it all? The kids grows up to fear Santa and Christmas until he is made the store Santa at his job and snaps. Then the killing really begins. It’s exactly the kind of movie you would expect during the popularity of Friday the 13th and other eighties slasher films. From Jesus Christ to an ax in the head!
The same year of Silent Night, Deadly Night, Sellier released Snowballing. A brief look at the cover will tell you it was made in the tradition of Porky’s (1982) or Hot Dog… The Movie (1984). Snowballing is also a sexual reference whereby one woman sucks off a guy and spits the cum into another girl’s mouth (and no, I’m not making that up). Even if Sellier didn’t mean it in that manner, the term “balling” is pretty obvious from the cover art (to have sex).
I would contend the reason Sellier made these movies is he needed money. Much like he exploited the family genre and the supernatural genre, he decided to exploit the teenage genre of horror and sex comedies. Charles Sellier was nothing more than a schlockster (is that a word, hell, I’m going to use it anyways). I love schlock, but I don’t think most Christians know when they are seeing schlock: Noah’s Ark Schlock, Jesus Resurrection Schlock, End Times Schlock–any documentary or movie that promises to reveal evidence to confirm what you already have blind faith in.
Sellier got paid, Christians got ripped off. Those documentaries were filled with pseudoscience and unverified claims. At least with Silent Night, Deadly Night we were exploited with entertaining nudity and violence and laughable acting that put a smile on your face because you knew it was all fake and badly staged. Can Charles Sellier be considered an Evangelical Christian in good standing when he was willing to switch gears to horror and sex for convenience and money and then switch back to faith films afterwards? Seems like the kind of weak, hypocritical Christianity you see on TBN and Daystar. Producers of family friendly films are still schlocking. It’s all about the love of money and Christian pop culture plays right along.
SIDENOTE: It was actually hard to find a lot of good material on Charles Sellier and why he did make Silent Night, Deadly Night. One of the best resources on him is from the site Temple of Schlock. It has original articles from the controversy of when the film was released. For awhile, I thought Wikipedia had made a mistake including Silent Night, Deadly Night in Charles Sellier’s resume–there must be another Sellier?! But no, there’s an article on Temple of Schlock that confirms it is the same man who made Grizzly Adams. Technically, making Santa into a figure of fear is not anti-Christian so maybe that’s what Sellier was thinking. It’s still questionable to show the violence, blood and nudity though if you purport to be an Evangelical and the morals they espouse.
Article by Cartoonist Jeff Swenson