A 'Lost' Mark Hamill Movie Is Finally Being Released After 10 Years

To begin with a personal anecdote: 

From 2000 to 2003, this author worked as an intern for New Concorde, a.k.a. Concorde New Horizons, Roger Corman's production company. As an intern, most of my duties involved going into oil-scented basement rooms to find physical advertising assets for long-forgotten "Emmanuelle" sequels and early Ron Howard pictures. I also had the privilege of reading a myriad of scripts, as many B-movie hopefuls would mail drafts to the known lord of the format. After several years, I was finally offered a job. I was to be paid a very modest amount to work as a production assistant on a Stacy Keach war movie called "When Eagles Strike," directed by Cirio H. Santiago. While the exteriors were filmed in the Philippines, the indoor scenes were filmed in a tiny studio just off of Melrose Blvd. in Hollywood, CA. The studio was made up to look like the interior of a military tent. As a P.A., I was allowed ample time to read, and was sent to the AD's car to fetch a palate of water. This was the height of my career in film production. 

Corman, as is well known, is a master businessman, and often brags that he has made a hundred movies in Hollywood without losing a dime. Typically, Corman could make films so cheaply, that he would sell them to video stores and other distributors, sight unseen, for more than he spent, instantly making his money back and then some. Whether or not people saw the films was almost irrelevant, which brings us to the curious case of the Mark Hamill film, "Virtually Heroes."

The magic of Roger Corman

Roger Corman, as a cost-saving measure — and in order to pad out the running time of short movies — would often cleverly edit pieces of previous films into current productions. Why film a new explosion, after all, when an old one will do? If one watches many New Horizons films in a stretch, a keen eye will recognize a lot of reused stock footage and VFX.

I mention all this as a matter of full disclosure. As someone who (sort of) worked on "When Eagles Strike," I am somewhat involved with the production of "Virtually Heroes," a.k.a. "Virtual Warriors," a 2013 Mark Hamill film, directed by G.J. Echternkamp. "Virtually Heroes" was made by New Horizons back in 2013, and makes use of footage from "When Eagles Strike," as well as a few 1980s Corman-produced films like the three "Eye of the Eagle" movies and 1988's "Saigon Commandos." The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and, for undisclosed reasons, was never released to the public. One might think Hamill's star power would be enough to keep it out of cold storage, but it has remained on the shelf for a decade.

Until now.

According to IGN, on January 17, "Virtually Heroes" will be released digitally by Screen Media. The time has finally come. Although the time for what, I hesitate to guess. "Virtually Heroes," like "Tron," "Wreck-It Ralph," or "Free Guy," is set inside the virtual world of a video game, and the game's hero (Robert Baker), a "Call of Duty"-like soldier, is tired of the grind. When kills people, his score appears over their heads. Disputes are settled with "Guitar Hero" tourneys. Enemies have health bars. He laments that he dies constantly.

Virtual/ly Warriors/Heroes

Mark Hamill, perhaps one of the gamest actors to ever live, plays a "wise old sage" character, and wears a brown, rope-tied monk's robe, clearly meant to evoke Yoda from his 1980 film "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back." He will implore Robert Baker's character, who has died so many times, to finally live out his dreams. "Virtual Heroes" does predate the production of "Free Guy" but does come after other, similar films like "Wreck-It Ralph" and "Gamer." It also predates the most recent spate of "Star Wars" films, meaning "Heroes" had the wherewithal to cast Hamill in a Yoda-like role prior to his doing it "for real" within the actual "Star Wars" universe. 

IGN recently released a trailer for the film's 2023 release, although Roger Corman's own YouTube channel posted an earlier version of the trailer back in 2016. The above video is from Corman's official channel. Corman, now 96, has been behind literally thousands of films, most of them extremely low-budget and some of them legitimate classics. Despite having a business-forward approach to cinema, the man has impeccable taste and can be seen in any number of documentaries speaking eloquently about "Easy Rider" or the works of John Ford. 

I tried to remember that when, as an intern, I was sent on an errand to a nearby park to gather sticks and leaves in a garbage bag. The sticks were to be spread on the roof of Corman's office under an elaborate black tent. This was to serve as the forest floor in a medieval Irish wood for the 2002 werewolf film "Wolfhound." Some might call that cheap. Others would be more correct to describe it as resourceful.