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Film / The Cube

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Which door to leave through?

Ms. Bix: How many hours a day do you spend in here, anyhow?
[Arnie whispers in her ear]
Ms. Bix: Good heavens! He can't spend the rest of his...!

The Cube was an hour-long teleplay that aired on NBC's weekly show NBC Experiment in Television on February 23, 1969. The production was produced and directed by puppeteer Jim Henson, the screenplay co-written by long-time Muppet writer Jerry Juhl (who also appears in a cameo).

The story follows Richard Schaal as a man trapped in a cubical white room that anyone else could enter and leave, but which he himself apparently could not leave. The main character, simply named The Man in The Cube, is subjected to an increasingly puzzling and frustrating series of encounters as a variety of people come through various hidden doors. But as many remind him, he can only leave through his own door, so he must find it.

Not to be confused with Cube.

Tropes associated with this work:

  • Absurdism: This is probably one of the best examples ever found on American television.
  • Alien Blood: The protagonist cuts himself and tastes his own blood. It's Strawberry Jam.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: The two Munich police officers seem to be wearing altered SS uniforms.
  • The Cameo:
    • Muppet performer Jerry Nelson appears onscreen as a monk.
    • While the Man is being shown the end of the teleplay on a TV set, we see the names of both Joe Raposo (one of Sesame Street 's songwriters and music composers) and Don Sahlin (Jim Henson's original Muppet builder) scroll during the closing credits. Neither of them actually worked on the actual special, though.
    • Muppet/Henson writer Jerry Juhl (who also co-wrote this film) appears in a party scene, where he can be heard talking shop with others about the film itself; "I didn't care for the ending."
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The man finds out in the last minute that his escape was an illusion and he's still in the cube.
  • Driven to Madness: The man is constantly in danger of losing his sanity.
  • Driven to Suicide: The man tries to commit suicide by the end, but the gun he's provided with just squirts ink at his head, upon which every character seen so far all show up and laugh at him.
  • Epiphanic Prison: The only way out is to figure out what the cube is all about. (Maybe.)
  • Everything Is Racist: Invoked with one visitor, who is black, and expresses that he liked the Cube very much, and even has one of his own, but there is one problem he has with it: it's all white.
  • Extreme Doormat: The protagonist is so flabbergasted by his circumstances, coupled with the confidence of his visitors, that he submits to their logic fairly quickly and doesn't attempt to force his way past them and exit through their doors. When the dark-skinned visitor encourages him to get out, the protagonist says he can't, because it's not his door.
  • Fate Worse than Death: One possible interpretation of the ending — the man will be stuck in the Cube being tormented by his visitors until the end of time.
  • Fourth-Wall Observer: One visitor is a film critic who tells the man that he's just a character in a teleplay, and produces a TV to show him the ending.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Completely subverted, which is odd, given that this was still a couple of years or so before edgier television programming was the norm. "Hell" and "damn" are spoken.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Implied by the strawberry jam on the stool, which is the same stool that the man broke the Ramadar with.
  • Gaslighting: Furniture appears and disappears when the man's back is turned suggesting they are being moved when he's not looking. Of course it could just be his mind.
  • Happy Ending: Discussed and subverted. The film critic shows the man the play's ending in advance — the man's healthy, happy, and even got the girl... but he's still in the cube. And to top it off, he doesn't actually want the girl. The play eventually ends on a cruel note, with the man escaping the cube only to find himself back inside just before the credits roll.
  • Hope Spot: The Man comes very close to going crazy, but in the end, he appears to leave The Cube through a door, only to be led to a completely different room which turns out to also be The Cube.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: Said by the monk. "All is all. What is, is."
  • In Medias Res: It's never shown what the character was doing before he appeared in the cube. In the end, it seems he only exists inside of the cube.
  • Mental World: Suggested by the film critic, and also by the band's opening verse, "You're really in the middle of the inside of yourself."
  • Mind Screw: For both the man and the viewer. Who is the man? What is the cube, and why is he in it?
  • Monster Clown: Two comedians with clown make-up who like everybody else in the film are menacing, unsettling and malicious.
  • Mood Whiplash: Used by the 'people' as a jarring a effect to further fluster and confuse the Man in The Cube.
  • Only Sane Man: The Man in The Cube, at we seem to think so until the Mind Screw kicks in both in-universe and out.
  • No Name Given: The character. One visitor calls him "Ted", a name he denies is his. The original script gives the man's name as Martin.
  • Shapeshifter: One of the visitors drops in on the man, at first, looking like a beautiful young lady, but as she converses with him about how you can trust nobody, because no one out there is what they seem, she shifts more and more into a hideous old crone.
  • Tempting Fate: Near the end, the Manager opens a door and tells him he can leave, and the man refuses to believe it isn't yet another trick.
    Man: "How about this one? The minute I set foot outside this door, two gorillas grab me, dressed in ballet costumes, drag me back in, throw me on the floor and surround me singing "Home Sweet Home"!"
  • Unreliable Expositor: Pretty much everyone, given how they all contradict each other.
  • Weirdness Magnet: The protagonist is not given any time between strange encounter after strange encounter, just to make matters worse for him.