September 17, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
We gave it a F

It sounded like a zingy idea: a movie, I Woke Up Early the Day I Died, based on an unfilmed script by Edward D. Wood Jr., the paragon of brain-dead skid-row Hollywood. Here’s the catch: The script has no dialogue (it was written as a silent film), and so this homage to Wood never truly finds a way to evoke his fractured hard-boiled syntax, his inimitable idiocy.

Billy Zane, as a madman, escapes a sanitarium and falls into a series of cloddish adventures that are too cockamamie-surreal to be innocently bad. They’re just… bad. As in BAD bad. Occasional bits of unmatching stock footage revive a favorite Wood device, but ”I Woke Up Early” makes you want to go back and rent the real (awful) thing. In cameos, a cavalcade of has-beens (Karen Black, John Ritter, Eartha Kitt) mingle with a bunch of younger whomevers (Max Perlich, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Summer Phoenix).

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