Cult actress, icon and heroine: Tura Santana.
Born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi on 10th July 1938 in Hokkaido, Japan. Later her family settled in Chicago. Her interest in martial arts was inspired by a horrific childhood incident. Just shy of her 10th birthday, Satana was gang raped by 5 men. Reeling from the horror that she endured no doubt, Satana began her descent into juvenile delinquency. Forming a gang ‘The Angeles’ with neighbourhood girls. Desperate to tame their wayward daughter. Her parents decided that she should be married (she was 13, her groom 17). Unsurprising this did not work out. Satana left home aged 15 for the bright lights of Los Angeles.
Before she discovered acting, Satana was a model then graduated to exotic dancing. She achieved relative success, touring with the likes of Rose La Rose and Tempest Storm, even dating Elvis Presley!
Satana made her acting debut in 1963’s ‘Irma La Douce’, followed up with several smaller appearances in forgettable films and television programmes. Her career defining role was courtesy of Russ Meyer, previously noted for his controversially sexy films. Typically the women in his films were largely just sexually voracious vixens with massive breasts. However the role that Satana won was more than just a sex object. The was 1965’s ‘Faster, Pussycat, Kill Kill! Her role was that of leading femme fatale Varla. Not only was Varla a voluptuous pole dance (this IS a Russ Meyer feature), she was quick witted, tough and cunning. Meyers apparently loved working with Satana, who contributed her martial arts, costume and some of her dialogue. Unfortunately they were to never work again. After FPKK, Satana appeared the zombie series ‘Astro-Zombies’ and the ‘Doll Squad’. Life went from the routine (training to become a nurse, working as a dispatcher for the LAPD) to the extreme (being shot by her former partner). Health was unkind to Satana; suffering from back problems following a car accident. Resulting in 17 subsequent surgeries!
Tura died on 4th February 2011 from heart failure. There is even a heavy metal band named after Tura Satana. I have always believed that Satana was unlucky in that she never achieved the success that she deserved. Still she did create one of cinema’s most memorable vixens.