Review: 12:01 (1993 movie)

This was a Netflix find that proved to be not awful. Jonathan Silverman (mainly known for comedies such as Weekend at Bernie’s) works in the personnel department of an energy company headed by Martin Landau. He has a crush on one of the firm’s scientists, played by the lovely Helen Slater (Supergirl). One day he finally works up the nerve to talk to her, but a few hours later as everyone is leaving for the day she’s killed in a drive-by shooting.

The next morning at the office he’s shocked to see her alive and well, just like the day before. In fact, everything is just like the day before. He eventually realizes he’s stuck in a time loop, reliving the same day over and over again, with everything resetting at a minute past midnight and no one besides him aware it’s happening.

The made-for-TV movies was based — very, very loosely — on the Richard Lupoff story “12:01 PM” (originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction‘s December 1973 issue), in which the protagonist finds himself reliving the same 59 minutes over and over again. The story had been adapted much more faithfully in 1990 as a 25-minute episode of an anthology series on the Showtime network with Kurtwood Smith (the father on That 70s Show) as the star, and it was nominated for an Academy Award.

(Lupoff reportedly thought the makers of Groundhog Day had stolen his idea and for a while pursued a lawsuit along with Jonathan Heap, director of the 1990 adaptation, but they finally dropped it when prospects for success seemed slim.)

This adaptation, first broadcast the same year as the release of Groundhog Day, has almost nothing in common with the original story other than the title and the idea of a time loop. The story was a tragedy and the movie is sf romantic suspense with some comedy elements. It’s not great, and Helen Slater’s character seems poorly written, but it has its moments and reportedly has something of a cult following.

Incidentally, Lupoff ended up writing two sequels, naturally titled “12:02 PM” (F&SF Jan/Feb 2011) and “12:03” (F&SF Sep/Oct 2012), but unfortunately I’ve never read any of the original short stories.


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