“Hello can anybody hear me!?” These are the first words of an unnamed man, I’ll call him Cube Man (Richard Schaal). He’s woken up, maybe just appeared, inside a white cubed room. He repeats “Hello! Can anybody hear me?” Baffled. Cube Man tries to work out his bearings. It has to be a joke, right! An elaborate practical joke. It’s not funny. Starting to get panicked. Trapped. “Is there anybody there?“
This is only the beginning of the madness which will unravel itself to poor Cube Man as he tries to work out the reason he’s stuck in these bizarre surroundings. Soon he will have visitors. One by one they will appear. One by one they will test his patience, his sanity. A non-stop barrage of strange people appearing through the walls. Can Cube Man escape from this cubed prison? Can he find out why he is here? We will have to sit back for an hour and watch the madness unfold.
“He’s probably on drugs?” “Maybe it’s radiation or laserbeams?“
I had stumbled across the lunacy of The Cube sometime around 15 years ago. Can safely report that it stayed with me ever since. Remembering, whilst revisiting it, was a very joyful experience. Surprisingly I didn’t recall as much as I thought, enjoying it even more the second time. First shown as an anthology series for the NBC network called NBC Experiment in Television in 1969. I wondered if it resurfaced after the science fiction horror film of the same name Cube (1997) started gaining ground. Because the general idea of the cube prisoner has to have been a major inspiration. Though they are both vastly different from each other.
The Cube (1969) was an hour long television play. With it’s one room set piece I can imagine it could of worked well on the stage. Considering there is only one main character, it’s extremely fast paced, intriguing and entertaining. Helped by Richard Schaal’s amazing portrayal of a man imprisoned in a cubed cage. But also excited and fascinated by the, no shortage of, quick fire actors appearing through doors, constantly messing with Cube Man’s mind.
“Reality VS illusion, the perfect subject for the television medium.”
Now I won’t say what happens but I will run off a list of subjects they bombard at you through it’s short run-time. Are you ready for this? Right here we go! Is it a dream or a LSD trip? Is he on holiday? “How long is a lifetime?“. Unified field theory and beatniks. Define reality? Sexuality and quantum physics. Chocolate rabbits and strawberry jam. Limbo land and psychotherapists. Racism and paradox. Self-referential. Transformation and dinner party guests. Yep it’s safe to say this is mind-fuckery!
You can’t really define this short film. I’d put it in the same category as Orson Welles take on Franz Kafka’s The Trial and Patrick McGoohan’s superb series The Prisoner. It’s widely creative and inventive. It’s trippy, a real mind journey. Without doubt a one off. Who could of possibly come up with such a crazy story? Well The Muppet man Jim Henson and his writing buddy Jerry Juhl. Kind of figures when you think about it. The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth maybe children’s films but they’re pretty messed up too! Yep nothing on the Cube level of course but you know what I’m saying.
Luckily if you want to see this fantastic piece of science fiction then head off to the Internet Archive where it has been added to be preserved for historic viewing. An incredible archive which I always forget is there. Without doubt it holds countless rare and lost gems which you could never have a enough time to watch but amazing they are archived for the future generations. Stream or download The Cube 1969 here
Give it a go and remember “Who can you trust?“