Sunday, February 6, 2011

Farewell, Tura Satana

Russ Meyer often gets a bad rap for his famously boob-centric body of work, but it's tough to not recognize that his masterpiece Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! featured a trio of female characters completely unlike any the cinema had yet to see. Sure, there's no shortage of cleavage, but the film's three stars were groundbreakingly powerful in a way that no non-50 foot woman had been before. Lori Williams may have gotten all the best lines as the eternally wisecracking Billie, but it was Tura Satana's iconic performance as the psychopathic, mighty Varla that commandeered the film.

Sadly, Satana died yesterday of heart failure (her age has been reported as 72 or 75). Born in Hokkaido, Japan, Satana (born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi) was the daughter of a silent film actor. She fought her way through some extremely difficult early years to achieve cult stardom as Varla in 1965. In 2008, she told Entertainment Weekly of her most famous role:

"A woman, like my character, was able to show the male species that we’re not helpless and not entirely dependent on them. People picked up on the fact that women could be gorgeous and sexy and still kick ass."

Hear, hear!

As well as Pussycat, Satana appeared in a less prominent role in the more prestigious (though, let's face it, not nearly as good) Billy Wilder film Irma La Douce (1963), the horror flick Astro Zombies (1968), and Rob Zombies's cartoon The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009) in which she revisited Varla.

And come to think of it, Billie had the bulk of the film's great lines, but Satana did, indeed, have the best one:

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