Ed Wood's "I Woke Up Early The Day I Died."

1999, Movie, NR, 90 mins

Review

ED WOOD'S
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TITANIC laid bare Billy Zane's inner silent-movie villain. This bit of nuttiness, an art-house gloss on pure trash, uncovers Zane's inner inner-slapstick comedian. Who knew? The starting place is a more-than 20 year old screenplay by Ed Wood, Jr., widely regarded as one of the most inept filmmakers ever to amass a substantial body of work -- even Wood's admirers have to admit that he deserves more credit for effort, amiability and boundless optimism than achievement. First-time feature director Aris Iliopolis fell for the oddball script, which was designed to be shot without dialogue (but with music, sound-effects and snippets of demented voice-over narration), and persuaded Woods' widow to allow him to make it. It revolves around a nameless thief (Zane) with a morbid sensitivity to sound; he escapes from the loony bin by dressing up as a nurse (cross-dressing is, of course, a notorious Wood fixation), impulsively kills a clerk during a robbery, loses the loot and spends the rest of the film trying to get it back. Iliopolis' vision appears to have seduced an astonishingly diverse cross-section of Hollywood hipsters and has-beens: Sandra Bernhard, Karen Black, Wood's widow Kathy, Christina Ricci, Maila Nurmi (the original Vampira, star of several of Wood's movies), Will Patton, Max Perlich, Bud Cort, Conrad Brooks (another Wood regular), Ron Perlman, Eartha Kitt, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Ann Magnuson, John Ritter and Hitchcock heroine Tippi Hedren, who narrowly escapes being brained with a wooden seagull, all make appearances. But what kind of movie is it, you're asking? Suffice it to say that it's an amazing artifact; the décor and lighting mix '70s tackiness with odd '50s touches, the sound design is elaborate and the fact that it got done at all is the ultimate tribute to Wood's own indefatigable, if threadbare, ingenuity. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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Ed Wood's "I Woke Up Early The Day I Died."
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