|Promotional ad for THE CUBE|
For those who aren't as familiar with Henson's work outside of the Muppets, THE CUBE was an "experimental" television special for NBC in early 1969, that really put the "mental" in "experimental"; in a nutshell, the hour-long special was about a man trapped inside a containment known simply as "the cube".
Again, that's basically the plot in a nutshell, you have to really see this thing in order to really get an idea of just what's it about... that, and it also helps to read some summaries for a better understanding. THE CUBE focuses on a man, simply identified as "The Man in The Cube", played by character actor Richard "Dick" Schaal, who is imprisoned inside a cubical room that's composed of grids of white rectangles, he has no idea why he's in there, but he desperately wants to get out, even though apparently he can't.
But, I digress, I find this special to be highly disturbing. I don't mean that it's disturbing to watch, but rather, the whole story itself is disturbing... both Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl (who not surprisingly co-wrote the special) really captured human anxiety really well: you feel just as frustrated and confused as the Man does whenever he's continually visited by an array of really bizarre and eccentric characters, ranging from an unnamed owner/manager and a maintenence worker named Arnie who provide him with advice that is of no help to him whatsoever, to Gestapo officers who place him under arrest, to hippy musicians who sing about containment and death, to a black man who dislikes the cube for how "white" it is, to a young woman who transform into an old hag while ragging about not trusting people, to an escaped prisoner of another cube who had obviously become institutionalized to his own cube (though he turned out to be an actor hired by the aforementioned unnamed manager) to even a monk whose spiritual advice offers no guidence at. All the while, the Man grows more and more desperate to get out of the cube, and like feeling his frustration and confusion, you also feel his desperation, and as much as he wants to get out of the cube, that's how much you want him to get out of the cube.
|Behind-the-scenes, with Jim directing. Note co-writer Jerry Juhl in the background.|
Both Jerry Nelson and Jerry Juhl make onscreen cameos in the special as well.
Check it out for yourself, and see what you think of it: