Movie Article

Themes Like Old Times

The deja vu plot has been recycled in Hollywood films for over 40 years

Groundhog Day really is déjà vu all over again. In fact, the film's trapped- on-a-time-roller-coaster plot has been a recurring device in science fiction for at least 40 years, from a kitschy comic book to an Oscar-nominated short film.

THE CYCLE OF TIME (1953) The December issue of Nightmare comics tells of a criminal who steals a time machine and sets time back 10 minutes — but ends up continually running himself over with his own car.

ESCAPEMENT (1956) In this short story by J.G. Ballard (Empire of the Sun), the narrator is trapped in the same 15-minute interval. After much confusion, he is released, only to find that his wife has become stuck in her own time loop.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE (1959) The episode ''Judgment Night'' features a terrified boat passenger whose ship is repeatedly sunk by a German submarine during World War II. In a typical Zone-ian twist, the passenger turns out to be the attacking U-boat's captain, who is condemned to reexperience his crime forever.

REPLAY (1987) Ken Grimwood's novel tells of a character who dies at the age of 43 and then returns as an 18-year-old to repeat his life, which grows progressively shorter.

12:01 PM (1991) In director Jonathan Heap's Oscar-nominated short (based on a 1973 story by Richard A. Lupoff), a law clerk is doomed to repeat the same lunch hour for eternity. Currently being expanded into a TV movie.

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (1992) The episode ''Cause and Effect'' puts the Enterprise crew in a time warp, forcing them to repeat the same experiences until Data saves the endless day.

GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) really is déjà vu all over again. In fact, the film's trapped-on-a-time-roller-coaster plot has been...uh-oh...

Originally posted Feb 12, 1993 Published in issue #157 Feb 12, 1993 Order article reprints
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