by Tom Lisanti

aturaThe late Tura Satana was one of the most exotic actresses of the sixties who always seemed to be cast as voracious man-eaters in low-budget films and fantasy television shows. Her on-screen persona was so powerful that you could not help but be transfixed by her as exemplified when cast as the vile Varla in Russ Meyer’s drive-in cult classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Dancer Tura Satana’s acting career began was spotted by director Billy Wilder while performing at the Pink Pussycat Club and he cast her as Suzette Wong, an Asian hooker in Irma La Douce (1963).  Satana got noticed in her small role and kept busy for the next three years playing minor exotic roles on film and TV. Her dancing prowess got her cast as a stripper in Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed? (1964) and later as a go-go girl in Our Man Flint (1966). After more TV gigs, she was cast in the role of a lifetime—the man-hating viper Varla in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1966).The movie was ahead of its time and possibly made audiences especially men squirm in their seats as buxom Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams physically and verbally abused the males in the movie. To make the gals even more Amazonian, Russ Meyer brilliantly positioned the camera close to the ground so he could film the girls from an angle looking up.  Clad in a black cat suit with her cleavage prominently displayed, Satana was the trio’s depraved leader who after breaking the neck of her teenage male opponent in a car race takes his nubile prissy girlfriend hostage. The terrified teen is dragged along as the vixens plot to rip off the fortune of a crippled old man despite the presence of his two sons—one beefy and dumb and the other weak but suspicious.  Satana oozes a sort of evil sexiness as the angry Varla and menaces, karate chops, and kills her way into B-movie infamy though the film was a box office disappointment when released. Shockingly, Hollywood never took advantage of Satana’s talent properly. In 1968 she turned up in director Ted V. Mikel’s grade-Z horror movie The Astro-Zombies playing a wicked Chinese dragon lady named “Satana” who works for a foreign power that covets mad doctor John Carradine’s knowledge of turning lawmen into programmable robots. Mikels then hired her for a supporting role in The Doll Squad (1973) She deserved much better. Tura then disappeared from show business only to be resurrected in the nineties due to Faster Pussycat‘s cult followers. She was a fave on the celebrity autograph convention circuit until her death in 2011. You can read more about Tura Satana in my and Louis Paul’s book Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films & Television, 1962-1973 and my book Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood.

Also a quick happy birthday to Robert Pine star of the beach movie Out of Sight (1966) and the TV series CHiPs, but now more known as the dad of actor Chris Pine of the new Star Trek movies. And to blonde nymphet Sue Lyon of Lolita fame though I prefer her in The Night of the Iguana as the tease who turns on drunken minister Richard Burton and on-the-down-low Lesbian teacher Grayson Hall.

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