I'm mighty proud to say the first DVD yours truly ever bought was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Not long afterward, a bubbling blue website called DVD Talk became a daily haunt and it was there that an enthralling little flick known simply as "Cube" first strolled into view. Back then, the message boards buzzed with fevered praises for both movie and disc. Adding it to my burgeoning library on DVD Talk's word alone was a leap of faith. One I've been fondly thankful for ever since. By extension, such recommendations are what makes scribbling this column a rewarding diversion. Strange to be NOSTALGIC about something that happened barely four years ago, but goldang it, you really DO remember that FIRST time! Only this go 'round there was no crying and no one fainted. But I digress! Seems CineSchlockers aren't the only ones who think a lot of this flick because the folks at Lion's Gate have hauled off with a retrofit rerelease of this sci-fi sleeper with all the richly-deserved digital pomp and circumstance of their Signature Series line.
One after another, six strangers awake in 14' by 14' rooms with a menacing bulkhead centered on each wall. Like a deadly spin on "Let's Make A Deal" these poor captives soon realize they're also picking their POISON if they naively choose the wrong door. One skittish fella (Julian Richings) instantaneously goes to pieces just a baby step into a deceptively benign new room that's actually a HUMAN CUISINART!!! Fortunately, the rest of the gang makes note of such messy missteps whilst clambering within the neverending wilderness of this overgrown Rubik's Cube. Each of our unfortunates are cowinkydinkily named for famous hoosegows: There's Quentin the hero (Maurice Dean Wint), Leaven the mouse (Nicole de Boer), Holloway the jabberjaw (Nicky Guadagni), Worth the wet blanket (David Hewlett), Rennes the escape artist (Wayne Robson) and Kazan whose short bus just arrived from the Judge Wapner Academy (Andrew Miller). In all, sort of a nightmare "Real World" scenario, only with an older cast and the thrilling fact any one of them can DIE at any moment! Something MTV should ponder. That naturally nixes anything approaching a Kum-Ba-Yah session among the gang whilst they journey through the maze and its accompanying trials begin to illuminate their TRUE characters. Some being grossly more ruthless than others.
What we've got here is actually a time-honored cinematic formula: Get from "A" to "B" without becoming lunchables. Yet in this case getting to "B" requires having spent more than a few WAKING hours in math class. Coupled by the unnerving reality that a fellow cubemate may well brain ye long before a sound-activated trap rares up and spits acid in your eye. And horror, upon horrors, what if "B" ain't such a swell joint after all!?! Such is the many faceted brilliance of this harrowing exploration of what one character so adeptly describes as "Boundless human stupidity." Coincidentally, that's a term which also begins to explain how Cube 2: Hypercube so royally careened off its tracks. CineSchlockers will be sadden to learn that, for the sequel, producers went taller and BLONDE at Ms. de Boer's position. She, of course, went on to develop an unsightly skin condition on "Star Trek: Deep Space For Rent" as all hot babes of the franchise are required. Some may also remember her scampering around in her skivvies in Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil.
No breasts. Six corpses. Bitch slapping. Boot bludgeoning. Gratuitous urination. Button sucking. CGI shenanigans. Acid facial. Gratuitous 007 reference. Excessive whining. Noggin knocking. Flamethrowing. Advanced ciphering. Doc Holloway never missed an Art Bell broadcast, "Only the government could build something this ugly!" and "Nobody's EVER gonna call ME paranoid again! We gotta get out of here and blow the lid off this thing!" OK, so she's not paranoid, but she IS a spaz, "HOLY CATS! HOLY, HOLY CATS!!!" Worth may be lonely but "I've got a pretty fine collection of pornography." Mr. Wint gnaws on what little scenery there actually is, "Listen to me, WOMAN! Every day, I mop up after your bleeding heart. The only reason you exist is because I keep you! I know your type. No kids. No men to f@#& you! So you go around outraged. Sticking your nose up other people's a@#%&$#s. Getting into their business. You missed your boat, Holloway. You're all dried up inside there, aren't you?! That's YOUR f@#%ing problem!" and "I'M NOT DIEING IN A F@#%ING RAT MAZE!!!" However, even being bipolar, the big guy's not without wit, "You're telling me Telethon Boy is a genius!?"
So, you own the original release. Why upgrade? For starters, this disc features a brand new anamorphic transfer and robust Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Writer/director Vincenzo Natali, whose signature graces the cover, returns for an engaging solo commentary with the added perspective of a few more years and feature films. On the original disc, he was joined by longtime friends and collaborators David Hewlett, who played Worth, and co-writer Andre Bijelic. That often witty "Hey! We got to make a movie!" track isn't included here, however much of the same micro-budget, two-room production trivia resurfaces and Natali, who isn't shy about tattling on the bonehead wishes of distributors, is FAR from a bore! Would've made a nice easter egg, though. There's also a new, yet all-too-fleeting video interview with the impossibly cute Nicole de Boer. They've even spiffed up previously static menus with motion video and fragments of Mark Korven's chilling score. Most everything else is ferried from the formidable first release with two minor omissions: the set design sketches and that pedestrian "We cut this" chatter over the deleted scenes. (1997, 90 mins, 1.85:1 anam, DD 5.1, Commentary, Interview, Deleted scenes, Storyboards, Photos, Trailers.)
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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.