Ashore, he goes to the family ostrich farm run by his sister Amelia (Shelley Duvall). What slowly emerges is a complex set of passionate connections. Amelia is heartsick for the vain and duplicitous Dr. Solti (R.H. Thompson), who has a manipulative hold on both Zephyr (Alice Krige), the widow of a fisherman, and Julianna. But Solti’s true love is a recently discovered statue of Venus with strange powers and an apparent desire for Zephyr. The lethal unraveling finds Amelia taking out her frustration on her handyman (Frank Gorshin) and the rest killed, spurned or gone mad.
Once again Maddin sets his tale in an unspecified bygone time and creates a hallucinatory environment on soundstages. The elements of magic and confinement recall “The Tempest,” but George Toles’ script fails to connect the mythic and the temporal, producing an ultimately unsatisfying effort.
Whitmey, who removed his name from the picture when he was re-dubbed by another actor, is nonetheless effective as a cipher amid the action. The picture also sports effective turns by Krige, Thompson and especially Bussieres, while Duvall is overly shrill as Amelia. Overall, Maddin’s first effort with seasoned performers is extremely promising, and he continues to grow as a visual craftsman. But he’s in need of better material to develop the unique film voice his past films promised.