Interview by Dan Kinem
As you must have noticed by now, VHShitfest has basically adopted the film Hellroller as our own. I pride myself in being the biggest fan of one of the most bizarre films ever made and through this fandom I had the opportunity of talking to and becoming friends with co-director Stuart Wall. He has done us the honor of unveiling some fun stories and interesting history surrounding this little known slasher.
What were you doing before Hellroller?
Before Hellroller I was selling cult & horror VHS for David DeCoteau (producer of Puppet Master & other films). Back when VHS was popular I made a living in sales, also sold titles like Mark of the Devil, Faces of Death, and more..
How did Hellroller come about and how did you get involved with G.J. Levinson?
Gary & I met from a mutual friend, Donald Farmer, who’s also an active horror “B” director. When you join up with a partner your ideas get squashed. Gary wanted to call this film “Scumbag” and I came up with the title “Hellroller.” The premise of the story I came up with, the world’s first serial killer in a wheelchair who gets even with all the beautiful people in society for not giving him the time of day for being a crippled. Then Gary took over in writing the script and that’s how this came to be…
How were you able to get a bunch of great scream queens at the time, like Mary Woronov, Michelle Bauer, Elizabeth Kaiten?
Before directing & producing Hellroller I worked on a book with Donald Farmer called “Invasion of the Scream Queens” which came in handy since I was able to meet so many well known stars in this direction. We tried to get Traci Lords to star in this at the time just it didn’t happen.
What made you guys shoot on video?
Money. This was never meant to be a major production, it was an attempt to make a fun low budget horror film. After we shot & edited this we ran it through a process called Film Look to add a more grain/film look to it.
Any stories you remember from on set?
It was fun working with the two twin brothers who were one of the attackers in the film. Always a blast being around Mary Woronov, she invited us to her home and it was amazing seeing her art collection including works by Warhol.
On a side note, if I was to ever make another horror film it was going to be about my correspondence with serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
Friends in the art world told me if you sent him $25 when he was alive he would paint a painting for you. I asked him to do a piece of him dressed as a clown killing me. He wouldn’t go that far, instead he created this for me.
He also did one for Johnny Depp, too, [but] he got rid of his pretty fast since it spooked him out. All I ever wanted was my painting, then we started exchanging letters in the mail as pen pals. He would always want to hear my sexual stories with chicks just he would imagine them with boys (ha ha ha). One day he called me Collect from prison and this is when I chose to cut off all ties to him. I then sold my piece on eBay to a NY art gallery for like $300 dollars. Years later this piece has had over 5-6 owners, appeared on MTV and more. I even saw it in a Burbank, CA art gallery, it was last sold for close to $5,000 and is now owned by Jonathan the lead singer of the rock band KoRn.
How did you go about releasing the film? Talk a little about Dark Side Home Entertainment. Did they release anything else?
I now remember this was a B-movie distributor out of Ohio at the time, since I was in sales I was able to sell this around the U.S. to video stores, too.
Did you ever screen the movie?
Yes, we actually had a screening of this at Cinespace in Hollywood. They still do events, too! Johnny Legend & Eric Caiden who own the famous Hollywood Books & Posters were in the film and were at the premiere too, they now run the famous Grindhouse events at the Beverly Theatre in LA now owned by Quentin Tarantino.
Anything that happened after the film was finished?
Yes, our still photographer at the time who shot all our stills was later hired to do the artwork (design a [VHS] box cover) for a new horror documentary. Since he took our classic whore still of [the] Michelle Bauer dead scene he felt he had the right to use that still on this competitor’s cover. We did pay him for those stills to own outright. See, even though he took the photos doesn’t mean he can then still use them and profit off them. Long story short, we filed for small claims courts. Shows like People’s Court read cases that are filed and if they sound interesting will approach both cases. They did and offered us I think around $500 at the time each no matter if you win or lose. We then went on People’s Court in front of the famous Judge Wopner and baliff Rusy (who is known for working on the Charles Manson case). Long story short, Judge Wopner wasn’t a fan of horror films and decided to not lean in our favor. We fought the owners of the documentary releasing their VHS with our cover, instead we should of gone after the still guy. On our way out they asked me what I thought of Judge Wopner’s decision, I replied [that] in [Hellroller] Part 2 we just might have to have the Hellroller kill Judge Wopner. This made it on TV. Classic!
Stuart Wall and G.J. Levinson on People’s Court!
What did you do after Hellroller?
After Hellroller, [when I was] still living in Hollywood, I began to meet people in the porn world. Since my background is sales and this is how I make a living, I was convinced to join the darkside (ala porn) in selling porn VHS and now DVDs. Jumping 15-20 years into the future and I’m now a producer for Smash Pictures (smashpictures.com).
Making our own horror film was always a hobby on the side. I’m also a well known DJ in the rave scene and making a living DJing rave parties Electro & Techno, you can see my clips on YouTube, I go by HYPNOTIC 23.
For more videos of Stuart Wall DJing subscribe to his YouTube page.
Did you stay in touch with Gary?
To be honest Gary and I didn’t really get along. See, I come from the art world, more into artsy stuff, where he’s into pure cheese. Gary didn’t get along with Donald Farmer either. There’s a part in Hellroller where Gary (who’s in the movie pushing Eugene) says, “I’m just a bum from Tennessee trying to make a burger out of fillet mignon.” or something like that, [I] forgot the exact lines. But yeah, Gary and I were friends during the shooting then had a falling out.
Are you surprised there is still an interest in this movie and that VHS copies of this have sold for a lot of money?
Yes, [I’m] very surprised. With today’s technology and even YouTube, when I did random searches, I found [VHShitfest] among others. It certainly has become a CULT phenomenon!
Big thanks to Stuart Wall for the interview. Make sure to check out the links provided for more information on Stuart. For more behind the scenes stories, John Wayne Gacy talk, and photographs not in this interview, please pick up my Horror/VHS ‘zine called Tape Mold coming out next month. Want to read more about Hellroller? Check out our interview with actor David Henry Sterry.