Pia Zadora plays Kady, a nymphet who’s been searching for her father in the Nevada silver mines. She tracks him down at an abandoned mine where he (Stacy Keach) is serving as a guard.
The headstrong young woman brings out incestuous desires in her God-fearing father. Eventually, his inner passions overcome his honest instincts. In an effort to keep Kady close to him, he agrees to work the almost depleted mine and cash in the remaining ore.
For Kady, the act is motivated by revenge. The mineowner’s son got her pregnant and refused to marry her. However, the son reconsiders his cowardice and agrees to marry.
Keach plays his role without shadings and this self-righteousness is difficult to swallow even with the picture’s old-fashioned underpinnings. Zadora, in her screen debut, has most of the picture’s best moments and registers well with her little girl looks and Lolita sensuality.
Orson Welles as a corrupt judge provides the film with a few comic but misplaced moments. The final courtroom session sinks into a farce better suited to a comedy of manners on stage. Transferring novelist James M. Cain’s narrative and eroticism proves too great a task for the filmmakers and the picture remains a series of partially realized sketches.
The film, however, does not betray its modest budget. Made for $2 million, Butterfly has the look of a studio production of three to four times its cost.