One of the little tragedies about being a movie fan whose chief decades of interest are the 1960s and 1970s is that we're reaching the time when the filmmakers, actors, and behind-the-scenes geniuses who made these movies so special are passing away. I don't want to turn the Love Train into the Maudlin Obituary Death Train, but I'd be remiss if I didn't make a couple of remarks on the passing of Tura Satana.
While she had a remarkable life that included a burlesque career, glamour modeling, and several genre film appearances, it's her role as girl gang leader Varla in Russ Meyer's "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" that earned her icon status. A juicy role made unforgettable by Satana's snarling delivery and imposing physical presence, Varla is the ultimate busty, black-leather-clad bitch goddess. She's an Eric Stanton drawing come to life, and her unrelenting pursuit of pleasure, danger and power leave a trail of chaos in her wake.
Varla--and by extension Tura Satana--is one of the most indelible images of female strength on film. She's not a delicate actress putting on a tough face or a fashion model decked out with a gun as a sop to "girl power." Varla looks and behaves like she could kick your ass--like she wants to kick your ass--an explosive fury created from centuries of pent-up female aggression. She's not sexy *and* dangerous, her sexiness is borne of her dangerousness.
Tura Satana faced adversity throughout her life, from internment at the hands of the US government at Manzanar to her pre-pubescent rape to her real-life involvement in gang activity as a teenager. By all accounts, Tura Satana was no one's victim and her life's narrative was not that of a woman driven to exploit her body through sad circumstances. Rather than this, she was a capable individual whose bravado and strength of character are as memorable as her outrageous figure.
I can't quite separate Varla from Tura, and I think that's the magic a lot of her fans feel. It's a rarity to see a female screen figure that is so unrepentantly powerful embodied by an actress who so fully embraced her legacy.
Thank you, Tura Satana, for being a one-of-a-kind inspiration. You will live on as an icon for tough broads everywhere.