Worlds that keep revolving

By Tom Russo
Globe Correspondent / March 27, 2011

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When it comes to cultural notables musing about the notion of history repeating, George Santayana and Shirley Bassey have plenty of company. Among the various movies and shows that, like “Source Code,’’ are built on the same scenes playing out again and again:

“Groundhog Day’’ (1993)

Bill Murray’s smug Pittsburgh weatherman is comically, karmically sentenced to indefinitely repeat Feb. 2 — and his Punxsutawney Phil report — in the movie that’s become synonymous with the time-loop subgenre. (“Source Code’’ writer Ben Ripley, at a recent festival stop: “I was thinking of ‘Rashomon’ and ‘Groundhog Day.’ ’’)

“Run Lola Run’’ (1999)

Tom Tykwer’s video game-frenetic German film stars Franka Potente as a neon-haired riot grrrl racing through Berlin to help her boyfriend replace the mob cash he’s lost. Think the outcome’s a bummer? Don’t worry, Lola hits “new game’’ and gives it two more tries, with very different results. The movie that should’ve made test screenings obsolete.

“Star Trek: The Next Generation — Cause and Effect’’ (1992)

Of course “Trek’’ has boldly gone here, given the franchise’s fondness for temporal anomalies of all sorts. Picard and the Enterprise crew spend days caught in a time loop that always ends with the starship’s destruction — the result of a collision with guest captain Kelsey Grammer’s ship, which has been looping for 80 years.

“The Twilight Zone: Shadow Play’’ (1961)

Again we say: of course. Dennis Weaver plays a desperate man claiming to be trapped in a recurring nightmare that he’s headed for the electric chair. The repetition is described more than shown, but the kicker is classic “Twilight Zone’’: Weaver back in the courtroom, hearing his death sentence all over again. His mind has recast a fellow inmate as judge, a newspaperman as jury foreman, etc., but the verdict remains eerily the same.

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