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Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back producer Gary Kurtz is going back to big effects films with Panzer 88. We first heard about the film very briefly last year, when Hellboy co-writer Peter Briggs was said to be directing “a supernatural horror film set in a German tank during WW2.”

At the time, Briggs said he’d been having meetings with Kurtz, and the producer is now completely on board, along with the effects gurus at WETA, who will bring the $20m indie to life.

The LA Times talked to Gary Kurtz about the project, and he said,

It’s a good, good project, you haven’t seen anything like it for a while…It’s a visceral, reality-based story with horror overtones, and the idea is to have be like the best of the graphic novels these days.

The film is already being called ‘Band of Brothers meets Hellboy‘ (in part because too few people have seen the tank crew movie Lebanon) and it’s easy to see why: the story follows a five-man crew of a giant German King Tiger tank named Ilsa. (Reference there for exploitation film lovers? Almost certainly.) The Aaron Mason and James Cowan script has the crew accidentally awakening something old and powerful, leading to confined setpieces that will hopefully be atmospheric and tense.

Perhaps the best info comes from co-writer Mason, who says,

The story features German protagonists on the Eastern Front of Russia in October 1944, and Peter and myself labored to anchor the story in the real history of the time, right down to charting actual troop movements.  The few tank movies that are out there, like ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ or ‘The Battle of the Bulge,’ are fairly slow affairs, which is the furthest thing from ‘Panzer’ which shifts at breakneck speed. We’ve an occult slant to our story, like Michael Mann’s movie, ‘The Keep,’ although that movie’s pretty solemn and plodding, which is so not us.

And with Richard Taylor and WETA on board, this could become something that really works. Given the low $20m budget, District 9 is already being name-checked. But if this can be the District 9 of supernatural WWII tank movies, then we all win. And, man, look at that top concept image. It’s like a Motorhead album cover! (Click either image for much larger versions.)

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