Sunday, February 6, 2011

RIP Tura Satana 1938-2011

As much as I hate to begin this blog on a down note it would be remiss of me not to mention the passing of one of the legends of exploitation cinema, Tura Satana on February 4, 2011 at the age of 72.  Although her cinematic output was light (only 10 films in a 47 year career plus a handful of TV appearances) she left an indelible mark on anyone who encountered her work.

Born in 1938 in Hokkaido, Japan to parents of Japanese/Filipino and Cheyenne/Scots-Irish descent, her family soon emigrated to the US. Her early years were filled with racism and violence, including spending World War II in a California internment camp and a brutal rape by a gang of neighborhood boys. Satana soon found herself in Los Angeles where she parlayed her exotic looks into a career as a dancer and model. She managed to score bit parts in IRMA LA DOUCE and WHO'S BEEN SLEEPING IN MY BED?  but in 1965 she made the film for which she would be known for the rest of her life, Russ Meyer's FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! As Varla, the karate-chopping, back-breaking she devil she's both frightening and sexy, seductive one minute but able to turn deadly in an instant.

Satana next teamed up with filmmaker Ted V. Mikels for the ultra low budget THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES (1968), notable mainly for being co-written and financed by future MASH star Wayne Rogers. She teamed up with Mikels again in 1973 for THE DOLL SQUAD which was ripped off a few years later by Aaron Spelling as CHARLIE'S ANGELS. Satana then retired from showbiz to pursue a career as a nurse only to be lured back by Mikels in 2002 for the sequel MARK OF THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES. Satana spent most of her later years making personal appearances on the convention circuit but in 2010 she did manage to film the third (!) in the ASTRO-ZOMBIES trilogy.

I only met Tura Satana once, very briefly, at a horror convention in the late 1990s.  From a distance she was very intimidating. It looked like even in her 60s she would have no problem kicking my ass. However, up close she was as charming and friendly as she could possibly be, the complete opposite of her tough as nails persona. She will be missed.


  1. If the readers of this blog are of the sort who look for trios of linked deaths, then the passage of Satana, Maria Scheider and Lena Nyman so closely grouped is perhaps telling, even if in the variety of ways women's sexuality was portrayed by them in the New Openness of the US, at least...albeit at the (profitable) margins of low-budget, imported or internationally-produced film.