Monday, February 7, 2011

R.I.P.: Tura Satana

July 10, 1938 – February 4, 2011

Born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi in Hokkaidō, Japan to parents of Japanese-Filipino (her dad) and Scot-Irish-Cheyenne (her mom) descent, following WWII she and her family ended up living in the Westside of Chicago, where her exotic appearance (and her early development) gained her a lot of unwanted attention and harassment and, at the age of 9, a gang rape by five men, none of whom were ever prosecuted. (She herself says that she later hunted them down one by one and exacted her own revenge, whatever that might have been probably not enough of one.) Prompted by that experience to learn martial arts, she soon landing in reform school and then, at the age of 13, an arranged (if short-lived) marriage to John Satana, whose last name she retained the rest of her life. By the age of 15, after a brief spell in Los Angeles as a blues singer and model (bathing suits and nude), she became an "exotic dancer" and went on to perform alongside such names as Tempest Storm and Candy Barr. She had her first child at 19...
By 1963, she was once again in Hollywood, where she made her credited film debut as a hooker named Suzette Wong in Billy Wilder’s comedy Irma la Douce (the un-credited film debut of James Caan, somewhere in the background) and appeared (uncredited) as a stripper in Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (something she did again in 1966 in Our Man Flint [trailer]).
Say what you will, Tura Satana's filmography is hardly breathtaking – indeed, it is short enough for a non-smoker to recite in one breath. But, for that, she made one film that put her in a special league shared by few. That film was, of course, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, the last and perhaps major masterpiece of Russ Meyer's early B&W films (the other two arguably lesser masterpieces being the sadly undervalued films Mudhoney [1966 / trailer] and Lorna [1963 / Italian trailer]).

In Pussycat, although co-starring with Haji and Lori Williams, two equally impressive beauties of pulchritude, Tura Satana delivered an amazing tour de force of a performance that not only stole the film but made her, like Betty Page, the innocent and air-headed counterpart of Satana's ass-kicking powerhouse Varla, a Pop Icon of sexuality and Rock n Roll.
At the time of its release, despite all popularity and acclaim it has since gained, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! was hardly a hit (neither as a "real" film or an exploitation film) and neither her career nor that of her co-stars really went anywhere. Haji made a few more films with Russ Meyer (including one of his major disappointments, Motor Psycho [1965]), Lori Williams more-or-less disappeared, and Satana went on to do two other film jobs of note, both for the cult director of psychotronic weirdness, Ted V. Mikels (official website), before being shot by a former lover in 1973.
After recovering, she worked as a nurse for four years and then briefly as a dispatcher for the LAPD. She married the retired police officer Endel Jurman in 1981, the same year she broke her back in a car accident. (They remained married until his death in 2000).
At the time of her death, in Reno, NV., at the age of 72, Tura Satana was experiencing a slight comeback in guest appearances in cult films (both by Mikels and an occasional Young Turk) and personable talking head in cult-film documentaries. Among other projects she had in the works was a documentary of her life story; one hopes that it will still see the light of day.

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill (1965)

The film that is she and that she was. (If you have not yet seen this film, you are reading the wrong blog.) Russ Meyer's masterpiece needs no introduction, nor does Tura Satana as Varla.

The Astro-Zombies (1968)

A "horror" film by the truly unique no-budget cult filmmaker Ted V. Mikels. His psychotronic films are of the like/hat nature: few people who have seen one remain indifferent to the experience. Prior to Re/Search's Incredibly Strange Films, his name was hardly familiar, though his films did sometimes make it to the sleaziest of grindhouses. Plot: A former employee of the Space Agency creates zombies to wreak revenge; the go on the rampage and catch the eye of both the CIA and an international spy ring led by the eponymously femme fatale Satana (Tura Satana). Like all of Mikels's films, the film is pure turkey – but hell, who doesn't like Turkey Time?

The Doll Squad (1973)

Her second film for Ted V. Mikels, this time as a much more minor character, Lavella Sumara, one of many Doll Squad members. The Doll Squad is the unsung inspiration of the original Charlie's Angels television series, going by what Tura Satana has said in many an interview like this one with Lori Williams. The Doll Squad is, as DVD Drive-In describes it, "[...] a Bond-esque espionage thriller with a feminist slant. When the government is threatened by a madman blowing up U.S. space shuttle rockets, it's up to an elite squad of beautiful but aggressive and deadly woman to stop him." More prime-cut Turkey Time!!!

Mark of the Astro-Zombies (2002)
Mikels' first direct to video follow-up to The Astro-Zombies (1968).

Sugar Boxx (2009)

In Cody Jarrett’s homage to women in prison films, Tura has a brief appearance as a Judge.

In this wonderful animation trash film, her Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Character Varla makes an all of ten-seconds-long animated guest appearance alongside the film's director Rob Zombie before both get squashed flat. One can't help be left with the feeling that her character should have been accorded more and a better fate, but then, many a "guest appearance" in this film give the same impression. Click on the title above to go to the review of the film on A Wasted Life.

Astro Zombies: M3 - Cloned (2010)

Mikels' latest (2nd) sequel to The Astro-Zombies (1968). Supposedly she appears in it somewhere.

An exotic beauty, a survivor, and a true Pop Icon: Tura Satana.
The world would have been a poorer place without her.

Lastly, to return to Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Tura Satana's claim to Pop Icon immortality, but to look at another popular aspect of the film: the title track. Over the years, the film's lead song Faster Pussycat! has gained great popularity and been included on many a sampler. Here is the opening credit sequence of the film with the full version of the song by The Bostweeds.

Were it not for the song Faster Pussycat!, it could probably be safely said that The Bostweeds would be completely unknown and forgotten; as it is, virtually nothing is known nowadays about the garage band. Rick Jarrard, a producer at RCA (of Harry Nilsson, Jefferson Airplane, etc) is commonly given as the lead singer, primarily because he is credited as the writer of the song. (Though he is still alive, he himself has never commented about his involvement in the song or The Bostweeds.)
An unnamed source at this dead blog here, who claims to have played with the band, flatly states that Rick Jarrard was not the vocalist of the group and that "Rick, along with Jim Hilton, were our producers at the time and it was through them that we got to do the sound track for the film. We recorded the tracks in a home studio up above Sherman Oaks, Ca. all in one night. We did a bunch of singles under various names at that time."
The vocalist of the Bostweeds is supposedly no one other than a former Mouseketeer named Lynn Ready. Lynn Ready, however, who has dropped out of public sight, has never gone on record about this.
Nonetheless, what is a fact is that in addition to their one-sided release of Faster Pussycat!, The Bostweeds also released another 45 with the A-side Little Bad News and the B-side Simple Man. And while the sound of classic garage grunge bands is often interchangeable, the sound of Little Bad News is extremely similar to Faster Pussycat!
Listed as one of the song's composers is no one less than Lynn Ready.
But other than that, the rest is shrouded in mystery – once again proving that we are all just dust in the wind...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi All,

The referenced "long dead blog" about the Bostweeds lives on at