I was very sad to learn yesterday of the death at age 73 of a true grindhouse legend and an early icon of female empowerment. I had the good fortune of having a couple of longish chats with Tura Satana, the legendary star of Russ Meyer’s 1965 grindhouse tour de force, “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” and other light classics of exploitation cinema. We both appeared in my friend Cody Jarrett’s women-in-prison opus, “Sugarboxx,” though she actually got to speak. She enjoyed talking about the old days and I certainly didn’t mind listening.
One-quarter Japanese, Filipino, Cheyenne-Indian, and Scots-Irish, her story included a childhood stay in Manzanar, one of the internment camps where all Japanese-Americans on the West coast were illegally forced to spend World War II. She was a victim of a childhood rape who, she said, eventually tracked down all her attackers. That anger would later find an outlet in her work, to say the least.
Her performing career began with notoriety as an exotic dancer and martial artist. A gig posing erotically for photographs by aging silent comedy superstar Harold Lloyd led Lloyd to suggest a career in movies. She eventually made a brief appearance in Billy Wilder’s “Irma La Douce” and that was followed by her bone-crunching interpretation as the villainous/anti-heroic Varla in Russ Meyer’s insane mix of sexual innuendo and, for the time, shocking violence. She would likely have appeared in later Meyer films, but she was unwilling to do the kind of nudity that was his usual calling card. A certain amount of tragedy followed her later in life and her 1970s career was cut short by a bullet wound, her children, and a second career as a nurse.
Tura wasn’t Dame Judi Dench, but then Dame Judi is no Tura Satana. She was one very cool, very brassy woman who held an audience’s attention in a way that was entirely unique to her and entirely unforgettable.
And there may be some actual news mixed in here. Maybe.
* The big story today is that a lot of people have sussed out the the 23rd James Bond movie is, according to the possibly not-so-super reliable UK tabloid “canned.” Obviously, the same fiscal black hole at the once mighty MGM that is screwing things up royally for “The Hobbit” is also at least delaying the latest entry in what has to be the longest-running franchise in movie history.
He may be a bit emotional, but it’s hard to disagree with the passion of Harry Knowles on this, while Kevin Jagernauth provides some necessary background to the story. I agree that it’s a bummer this is happening during the era of Daniel Craig. As far as I’m concerned, Craig is easily the best Bond since Connery.
It’s a crazy and very busy day, I’m still recovering from some extremely mild case of the blahs or something, and surely doubt there’s anything I can write more interesting than the colloquy in the comments of my earlier post on mega-online entertainment news/opinion doyen Nikki Finke, in which Ms. Finke posted a response, I posted a response to the response…and, well, you can all see for yourselves but parts of it were not pretty.
Still, I’d like to draw your attention to an interesting and not unrelated post on the whole question of journalistic — if that’s the world — ethics in this brave new online world we’re all in by Anne Thompson. Not only is her piece on the issues brought up recently food for much thought, but the ad hoc symposium in comments is must reading and includes comments by several well known critics, including her immediate subject, James Rocchi, as well as guest appearances by Harry Knowles, Jeffrey “the Dude” Dowd, Todd Gilchrist, and many other fine folks including a brief comment by me. It might be a bit inside baseball/meta for some, but definitely worth a look for anyone interested in this whole new media world we’re all carving out right now.
Just for the record, I don’t consider what I do here and elsewhere journalism in the normal sense but an attempt to honestly entertain and educate whoever happens to be reading. As long as the acceptance of a free DVD, screening, a paycheck, or fabulous all-expenses trip to fabulous Bermuda or Culver City doesn’t get in the way of that, there’s no problem. And, if it does, we have no one to blame but ourselves and you readers will eventually catch on. I also try to avoid actually reviewing movies by people I actually know personally a bit too well to be objective or even commenting on them without noting the relationship. For example, this link to a very exciting, violent, and sensual tongue-in-cheek extravanganza is only here because I’m friends with the filmmaker and I’m actually in the movie. Honesty — always the best policy.
Look here’s a great (and NSFW) trailer I just discovered. Ignore the little balding guy with the strippers!
And while I’m promoting seventies exploitation homages, I should push one I’m actually in (and maybe some day I’ll get some lines in something).
Sugarboxx, a very tasteful, R-rated tribute to women-in-prison films of yore from the mind of underground cinema genius and complete-stranger-to-me Cody Jarrett, premieres at midnight, a week from tonight at L.A. Sunset Five theaters. For more on the movie and the premiere, details are here. Genuine, certified no-prizes for anyone who spots me in the very cool and moderately NSFW trailer below. At least one more plug to come.