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  Butterfly Daddy's Girl
Year: 1982
Director: Matt Cimber
Stars: Stacy Keach, Pia Zadora, Orson Welles, Lois Nettleton, Edward Albert, James Franciscus, Stuart Whitman, June Lockhart, Ed McMahon, Paul Hampton, George 'Buck' Flower, Ann Dane, Greg Gault, John O'Conner White, Peter Jason, Kim Ptak, Leigh Christian
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The border of Arizona in 1937 and one seventeen-year-old, Kady (Pia Zadora), is hitchhiking through the desert to reach her father's hovel which is situated practically in the middle of nowhere, next to an abandoned silver mine. She accepts the driver who has picked her up running his hand along her thigh until he stops the truck wanting more, but after taking off his boots she jumps out of the cab and runs off, leaving him humiliated. Eventually, she reaches the mine and waits for her father, Jess (Stacy Keach), who she has not seen since she was little - but when they set eyes on each other, improper thoughts surface...

Pia Zadora remains the only actress ever to win the Golden Globe for best newcomer and Golden Raspberry for worst actress for the same performance, but that state of affairs nicely sums up the reaction to her career, which was entirely financed by her husband at the time, Meshulam Riklis. A very wealthy businessman, Riklis evidently wished the rest of the world to see in Pia what he saw in her, yet it wasn't long before the poor starlet had become something of a standing joke with a short run of memorably terrible movies to her credit.

Zadora had a chipmunk cuteness that would be better suited to one of Santa's elves, fitting for someone who had made her debut in the notoriously awful Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, but perhaps not so appropriate for playing a sex kitten as she was here. With a sensationalist storyline based on the novel by James M. Cain, and brought to the screen by well known purveyor of low rent entertainments Matt Cimber, there was a level of achievement in mind here that did not suggest the winning of serious awards, and more a regular spot on late night television.

In truth, what could have been an enjoyably trashy potboiler is let down, not by Pia who does all that is expected of her, but by Cimber, who films this as if the dry and dusty heat that the characters are emoting in is draining all energy out of the story. Quite often the actors will seem so overhwelmed by the atmosphere that they are on the point of falling asleep, not the effect that your steamy thrillers usually aim for. As far as plot goes, it's all in the service of building up to one of the more ridiculous courtroom dramas in the history of the genre, but before all that, and the appearance of Orson Welles (would you believe?) as the judge, we have to endure lots of smouldering looks exchanged between the cast members.

Other than the courtroom climax, the best known scene is where Kady and Jess, after a hard day at the mine where Kady wants him to strike it rich, return home. Jess runs her a bath in the kitchen to wash the dust off, and one thing leads to another and he ends up giving her an intimate massage - Keach's expression during this is hilarious. But Jess cannot allow himself to go all the way with his own daughter, and although she is keen on the idea to the point of possible nymphomania, nothing happens. Until they get carried away when the possibility that Kady is not Jess's daughter is raised (not that she is bothered either way), and so the finale in the court, with an obviously inebriated Welles blustering his way through some ludicrous plot twists. If only Butterfly had been a little snappier then it might have been a trash classic, as it is, it's a curious footnote in movie history. Music by Ennio Morricone (Pia sings his theme song, too).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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