Tura Satana: 'Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!'s Buxom Movie Star

By | April 22, 2019

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Tura Satana in 'Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!' (1965) and 'The Astro-Zombies' (1968). Source: IMDB

Sometimes a single image from an obscure source breaks through into the mainstream -- such is the case with Tura Satana in the movie Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965). The Russ Meyer movie -- like much of his risque filmography -- is lurid, sensational, and not everyone's cup of tea. It's classified as an exploitation flick and was billed as "Russ Meyer's ode to the violence in women." Varla, its unmistakable anti-heroine -- sort of an evil Bettie Page with a Japanese mystique -- has endured as a figure open to interpretation.

Is Varla a strong feminist icon? Or is she a masochistic male fantasy? Could she be... both?

Born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi in Hokkaido, Japan, Tura Satana became a legendary cult figure with just one performance. Even if you’ve never seen her star turn as Varla in Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! you might recognize her for her Japanese, Native American and Scottish heritage and the jet-black bangs, cat eyeliner, and skin-tight leather outfits that made her a pin-up star.

Satana’s Bettie Page meets Dita Von Teese style has been inspiring groovy rockabilly gals since 1965. Even though she only appeared in a few films, and she died in 2011, Satana’s influence looms large even today. 

Satana Spent Her Formative Years In A Japanese Internment Camp

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Tura as Varla in 'Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!' Source: IMDB

After moving to the states in 1942, the Yamaguchi family was placed in the Manzanar War Relocation Center, a WWII internment camp for Japanese Americans near Lone Pine, California. Following the end of the war, the family relocated to Chicago, although it’s unclear whether the family was moved to the city by the US government or they did so by their own volition.

Satana later said that her life in Chicago was full of abuse and danger and that she experienced frequent racial harassment:

[I] fought my way going to school and coming back. I was constantly taunted about being a Tojo, a monkey-person.