In the first revision of Rubin's script--which I cite only by way of Ryan Gilbey because I have yet to get my hands on the thing--Buster chokes on fish not steak. Ryan Gilbey describes:
Rubin's first revision included even more examples of Phil's good deeds - pumping the stomach of Janey, a lovesick girl who has attempted suicide; removing an old lady from the path of a truck - but the real ingenuity comes when he devises some short cuts to help maximize limited hours. He places a rock in the road so that the lorry carrying the fish to the restaurant - the fish that Buster will later choke on - will not make its delivery. He tells Janey that the object of her affection had feelings for her. And he puts chewing gum on the pavement to delay the old woman on her way to the road.
I actually quoted a little more than I had intended there because I wanted to comment on the Janey situation. I am glad that one didn't make it into the film. Not just because we didn't need a more serious (than Phil's, I mean) reference to suicide. Phil maybe running into some teenage girl's room with her lying near-dead on a bed or in a bathtub--that's not something this film needs. And, telling her that her object of affection has feelings for her--that seems like Phil's lying to her. Or at best, she's got some fickle guy (or girl, but that would be really unlikely in a film from 1993) who ignored her so much she got depressed and suicidal saying he likes her when pressed by some strange guy from Pittsburgh. The Janey thing is a good loss.
The fish thing is a more meaningful loss. Considering my recent entries about Phil as Christ-Figure (part one and part two) and my current research into Christ-Figures in film generally, I've been noting other Christian symbolism in the film. Notably, this evening, I read that "blue is the symbolic colour of 'the heavenly origins of Christ (as the sky is blue)' (Owens, Grist and Dowling, 1992, 9). Symbolically speaking, blue is also 'the color of the divine, of truth, and of fidelity (in the sense of clinging to truth, as well as with reference to the fixed firmament of heaven)... blue is also a purity symbol' (Matthews, 1990, 25)" (Kozlovic, 2004).
(Bad news for me: I now want to find copies of Owens, Grist and Dowling and Matthews. Good news for me: more fuel for this blog.)
I've mentioned before how prevalent blue is in Groundhog Day, but the Christian connection--which oddly I did not know--is a nice addition. The fish thing should be more obvious. The Ichthys or Jesus-Fish--we all know it--
(Though there's a chance it might be the co-opting of a symbol for a vagina.)
--that's a common enough link to Jesus. Though I've always thought that link was tenuous--after all it was some of Jesus' disciples who were fishermen, not Jesus himself. Well, there's the loaves and fishes story as well.
But, anyway, the fish thing is an easy Christ symbol. So, I'd like to think that the reason Buster no longer chokes on fish was because fish potentially killing someone would be bad for Phil's image as Christ-Figure.
Today's reason to repeat a day forever... or at least to get a few extra hours in the day: to definitively explain the Jesus-fish connection, among other things. And, to write a longer entry about it.