Liz Smith's syndicated column as featured in the New York Post - April 28, 1999
Billy Zane, who all but twirled a mustache in "Titanic" and hissed "Curses, foiled again!," plays another villain in his next one, a movie called "I Woke Up Early the Day I Died." This is based on a long-lost screenplay by the titan of Grade Z movies, Ed Wood. (He gave us the immortal "Plan 9 From Outer Space.")
Zane, who also produced this flick, plays a criminal who escapes from a mental hospital dressed as a female nurse. Many adventures ensue, with a cast that includes Christina Ricci, Rick Schroder, Eartha Kitt, Karen Black, Sandra Bernhard, Tippi Hedren, Steven Weber, Bud Cort and Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
And to top it off, I hear there isn't a single line of dialogue in the entire movie, although Eartha Kitt does perform one song. CQN Releasing intends to put this oddity out on Halloween.
Robert Firsching from The Amazing World of Cult Films - 1999
Wood, who died in 1978, spent nearly a decade working on this script, but couldn't find anyone willing to make it the way he wrote it. Even during her lowest point of poverty, Wood's widow Kathy -- who fell on some very hard times -- refused to sell it unless it was made the way Ed had intended it. When she got a visit from Iliopulos, she was convinced. The result is an early Christmas present for Ed Wood fans who thought they'd never see some of the screenplays he wrote end up on a motion-picture screen. Not only has Wood's screenplay (which has no dialogue save for screams, shrieks, and songs) been faithfully filmed, but get a load of that cast list. Coming to theaters in September, 1999, this one is a doozy.
Iliopulos uses some rather clever techniques, including the frequent superimposition of shot descriptions taken from Wood's original screenplay and some outstandingly bizarre music. It's still an Ed Wood screenplay, but Iliopulos does his best to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. If he doesn't entirely succeed, at least the cast is eclectic enough to keep things interesting. In addition to those listed in the synopsis, Steven Weber, Wood regular Conrad Brooks, and Leif Garrett all show up as cops, while comedian Dana Gould plays the carnival barker.
Billy Zane does a great job in the lead (a role intended for Aldo Ray), with the sort of campy and fevered silent-movie mugging which the legendary director might have evinced from actors himself. Wood fans should eat this one up, although younger viewers and others without a well-developed appreciation for campy cinema might wish to burn the negative. While that's true of most of Wood's work, it's particularly true of this one, which is basically a 95-minute silent film of famous people acting goofy. This is not to disparage the film in any way, because I certainly enjoyed it. It's only to say that if you aren't already an Ed Wood fan, this film will probably not convince you. If you are, it marks a welcome addition to any Wood collection.