When I say “Jim Henson,” you say…. Kermit, or Miss Piggy, or Ernie & Bert, or probably one of a hundred memorable characters he created out of felt and foam. What you probably won’t say is “a trippy, artsy filmmaker exploring the boundaries of his medium.” But that’s what Henson was, too- especially in his early years, before he struck commercial gold with his beloved Muppets.
In honor of his birthday, we bring you a rarely-seen gem, The Cube, from 1969. Co-written with long-time partner Jerry Juhl, and airing on NBC (imagine a time when Network Television actually had artistic testicles,) The Cube is an hour-long experimental film with a simple premise: a man is trapped inside a white, cube-shaped room with no doors or windows, only to meet an array of people who come and go at will while he desperately tries to find a way out.
To be clear: this is not a kids’ film, though there’s nothing here that would prevent a kid from watching this, other than their own boredom from watching adults talk about adult things for an hour. Yeah, it’s definitely of its time, full of the kind of “far-out” dialogue you would expect from something that came out at the same time as the counterculture was becoming the mainstream culture. At 54 minutes in length, it’s just the right amount of time before the minimalist premise loses its flair, but by then, you’ve been treated to enough wacky acting cameos and conversation snippets to keep your existential self busy for a while.
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