Cult actress Tura Satana died Feb 4 at her Reno, Nevada, home, apparently of heart failure.
Queer film buffs will always remember the vixen with the wicked name fondly. I was thrilled to chat with her in 2008 when she made a special appearance in Toronto connected to a screening of the film that first made her famous, Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965). That film has been described by queer auteur John Waters as his “all-time favourite movie,” summarizing it as “a violent gothic melodrama built around three bisexual psychotic go-go girls.”
But what lay beneath the plot – of three desperate bad girls who would do anything to get rich – was something many rightly saw as downright revolutionary: the chicks in this film took no crap from men, and they often kicked the living crap out of them. Satana herself beats several men senseless in the movie.
Satana told me the sheer resilience of Faster, Pussycat! surprised her.
“At the time, when I first read the script, I didn’t think it would cause quite that much of a stir. For the first 10 years, it was just buried. But when it came out, I knew it was a film well before its time. I knew a lot of people would resent it. Early on, men resented it. But since then they’ve become huge fans. It’s funny how ideals and concepts change. I never did imagine that it would last this long, though.”
But Satana wasn’t so sure it was a feminist film before its time, as Meyer suggested repeatedly.
“I don’t know if it’s a feminist film, as much as it’s just one for independence. Russ was very strange with some of the things that he came up with. But Faster was different from any of his other films. It didn’t have any nudity. There were no hot and heavy sex scenes. We were in the hay at one point, but you had to use your imagination. 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.”
Satana was touched by how much Quentin Tarantino loved her work. He was once asked if he would ever try to remake Faster, Pussycat! and he responded that there was no way to improve on perfection. But despite the ongoing legacy of that film, Satana saw little promise of change in Tinseltown.
“They’re still very sexist. Now you have women who can do some things, but they use a lot of special effects. It’s not a woman really being strong or tough. Like Charlie’s Angels for example – those films were cute, but it was all special effects. I felt kind of cheated.”
Satana was certain of one thing: she loved her queer fans. She knew that gay men loved her, and she was also fully aware that lesbians loved her kickass persona.
“Yes, gay men love me. I have a lot of gay male friends, too. I think they know that there’s no competition between us over anyone else, so that makes it easy.”