Sunday, February 6, 2011

Good-bye, Tura Satana

If you say you like movies and don't know who Tura Satana was, you have been watching the wrong movies.  

I was trying to capture the voice of Varla, Tura Satana's signature character from Russ Meyer's 1965, girls gone wild masterpiece, Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!  but I am hopeless at recreating Varla's sassy, nihilisism.

Tura Satana was a strong, outspoken woman who approached life with a (literal) no holds barred attitude that she infused into her characters.  Varla, the homicidal, invective hurling, Go-Go dancer, was chaos personified.  She dished out the attitude she wouldn't take from anyone else and anyone who tried, did so at their own risk.  Both Kali the Destroyer and Kamakhyer, goddess of love, passion and desire, in one, she shook, shimmied, and cut down anyone or anything that got in her way.  Tura played the role with such gusto that Varla became an icon of American cinema.

Tura Satana was Kali and Kamakhyer (images Gimped by me)
Daughter of a Japanese father and Native America mother, Tura's early life was one of difficult struggle; during World War II, she was interred at Manzanar Interment Camp.  To read more about Tura Satana's unusual life, check out  Cinebeat's excellent profile.  

Tura's exotic looks, athletic build and graceful moves as a popular burlesque dancer in the late 1950's helped start her acting career.  Her brief acting career was cut short after a handful of television appearances and movie roles by a gunshot wound from a former lover after 1973's The Doll Squad and a nearly fatal car accident that kept her hospitalized for years.

In addition to Varla, Tura also was featured in one of my favorite B movies, Ted V. Mikels' The Astro-Zombies, 1968.  Her character,  Satana,  leader of a multi-national spy ring, dominates the screen, crackling with electricity.  She also models several Asian themed outfits, created especially for her role.

Tura's influence continues to grow as more artists, musicians, and filmmakers are inspired by her too brief public career.

The one thing you’ve got to remember is that you just never accept defeat. Remember to never let life get you down, because there is always something new to learn tomorrow. Life is to be lived, and lived well.” 

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The Astro-Zombies  and Fast Pussycat, Kill! Kill! are available online via streaming from Google Video. 

Wayne Rogers, Trapper John from M*A*S*H is credited as Astro-Zpmbies co-writer and  executive producer.


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