Posts Tagged ‘Tura Satana’

Day 11 of the gift guide is for the fan of female super and action heroes! It’s the Superwoman edition!

I’ve already gushed about my favorite superwoman, Modesty Blaise, on Day 1 of this gift guide.

So be sure to look there if your Superwoman Geek is a fan of British Spy-fi!

Jaime Sommers

Fans of Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers, are in luck – The Bionic Woman has finally been released on DVD in the U.S.!

Na-na-na-na-na-na . . .

And for those wanting to know more about the show there’s Bionic Book Reconstructed – a history of both Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man. (With interviews!)

Wonder Woman

Anyone who knows me, or is familiar with my work, knows how influential Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman was on me as a child and on the woman I’ve become.

For those that want to revisit their childhoods, pop culture research junkies like myself, and parents wanting to introduce their children to the Amazon Princess, Wonder Woman The Complete Collection is the perfect gift.

Wonder Woman: The Animated Feature is more for adults than children. (Get the 2-disc special edition for great features! )

The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia by Phil Jimenez and John Wells (and which I reviewed for Bitch) is truly THE guide to the character.

Wonder Woman: The Complete History by Les Daniels is a well-researched and thorough history of the character. And while I don’t care for Daniels’ weird dislike of Gloria Steinem I would still recommend this book for Wonder Woman fans.

Buffy Summers

Buffy Summers is another of my personal favorites when it comes to Superwomen. Get me started talking about the emotional resonance and feminist message of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I’ll never stop. I’ll also probably say things like, “I’m a Slayer. Ask me how.”

As mentioned in Day 5’s post, if your Geek doesn’t own Buffy the Vampire Slayer The Complete Series they’ll need it so they can participate in the upcoming Great Buffy Rewatch. Organized by Nikki Stafford and taking place on Tuesday nights throughout 2011, the rewatch will feature a variety of amazing contributors.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 will get your Geek caught up in the world of Buffy and the Scoobies as they lead an army of Slayers against the latest Big Bad.

And Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Panel to Panel from Dark Horse will provide reference to all the non-canonical Buffy comics in a coffee table book format.

Sydney Bristow

I miss Sydney Bristow. From the very first episode of Alias I was hooked on this Superwoman and spy-fi shero. Your Geek can get hooked too, or just revisit the adventures of Sydney and her family of spies with Alias: The Complete Collection.

For context, reference, and those that can’t get enough of the show, its characters, and its mythology, Uncovering Alias: An Unofficial Guide to the Show and Alias Assumed: Sex, Lies And SD-6 make for great reading.

Honey West

Private eyeful Honey West debuted in 1957’s This Girl for Hire – a novel co-written by husband and wife team Gloria and Forrest Fickling under the pseudonym “G.G. Fickling.” In addition to the 10 novels Honey appeared in, she was the star of an eponymous television series in the mid-1960s. (I wrote about her for the Noir Issue of Bitch.)

Fans of Superwomen would enjoy Honey West: This Girl for Hire – the novel that introduces us to the busty blonde detective.

Honey West: The Complete Series – as one of the first American television series to star an action heroine is an absolute joy.

Honey West by John C. Fredriksen provides a guide to the series with episode synopses and interviews.

The Honey West Comic Book from Moonstone – the first two issues of which are written by the great Trina Robbins! (I interviewed Trina about the project here.)

Dr. Catherine Gale and Mrs. Emma Peel

Cathy and Mrs. Peel are two of the first action heroines of television period. Played by Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg respectfully, they were not only beautiful, stylish, and sexy, but smart, talented, fearless and perhaps more capable than their male colleague, John Steed.

Fans of Superwomen will love the The Avengers – The Complete Emma Peel Megaset as well as early episodes featuring Cathy.

Get Christie Love

Get Christie Love started out as a made-for-television movie loosely based on a novel called The Ledger, written by Dorothy Uhnak, who herself had worked with the NYPD. Teresa Graves (Laugh-In) starred as Christie Love – a sassy, skilled, take-no-shit, undercover cop.

Get Christie Love aired as a series during the 1974–5 season making Graves one of the first Black women to headline her own television show. Only the pilot is available on DVD.

The character was modeled after New York Police Detective, Olga Ford, one of the first African American women on the force. Ford served as a consultant on an early episode.


Tura Satana once said that “You can still be feminine and have balls” and those words describe her just as well as the famous line in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! where her character, Varla, is told “You’re like a velvet glove cast in iron.”

With it’s brash delivery of one-liners, cinematography as stunning as the cleavage on display, and sexually confident, if amoral, women, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is a classic film for the Superwoman Geek.

Belted, Buckled, and Booted

For more on Ms. Satana your Geek might enjoy Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film by Jimmy McDonough.

Gina Torres (Or, the Gina Torres Collection.)

Okay, so Gina Torres is not a super or action hero per se – but she’s an Amazon Warrior nevertheless!

Cleopatra 2525

Guilty Pleasure? Feminist message? Exploitation? Let your Geek decide! I, for one love Cleopatra 2525 in all it’s awesome awfulness as well as the teamwork of Hel, Cleo and Sarge. And Torres sings the theme song.

Okay, every Geek already owns Firefly: The Complete Series and Serenity– but since they star Torres as the badass, Zoe Washburne, they need to be listed.

Superwomen Geeks can also catch Torres in Season Four of Angel – or you can go ahead and get the entire series.


One of the most fascinating Superwomen to come out of the past year is Chloë Grace Moretz’s Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass.

She was more than just a pint-sized, foul-mouthed assassin (and more than a gimmick). She was the most capable, talented, forceful, and driven person in both the movie version of Kick Ass and the comic book version of Kick Ass.

For more on both, Geeks will appreciate a copy of Kick-Ass: Creating the Comic, Making the Movie.

Recommended Reading for Superwomen Geeks: Criticism and History

Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology

Action Chicks: New Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture

The Modern Amazons : Warrior Women on Screen

Athena’s Daughters: Television’s New Women Warriors

Girls Who Bite Back: Witches, Mutants, Slayers and Freaks

A Very Short List of Recommended Reading for the fan of Superwomen in Comics

Birds of Prey Vols 1-7 by Gail Simone.

Wonder Woman: The Circle by Gail Simone.

Elektra & Wolverine: The Redeemer by Greg Rucka.

Queen & Country by Greg Rucka.

Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka. (See Erica McGillivray’s lovely review from Day 9 of this list.)

Promethea by Alan Moore. (Find out more about Promethea here.)

GoGirl! by Trina Robbins and Anne Timmons.

Huntress: Year One by Ivory Madison.

Several weeks ago I caught a showing of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! on Turner Movie Classics. The cult film that has inspired Todd Oldham’s fashion and John Waters’ movies was something I’d always intended to see, but had never made the effort to.

Shame on me.

Within seconds I was mesmerized; held within the thrall of Ms. Tura Satana.

It’s not just that she’s uniquely beautiful. Her curves are kickin’, her cleavage unparalleled, and her stare arresting; Satana could steal the show simply with her formidable presence. But it’s so much more that makes her role as the vicious Varla iconic.

For those not in the know, F,P!K!K! is a Russ Meyer film from 1965. With taglines like “Meyer’s ode to the violence in women!” and “Filmed in Glorious Black and Blue” you know you’re in for an art trash treat.

The movie begins with a wacky pseudo-beatnik/pseudo-Rod Serling introduction over an Outer Limits-esque screen:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Violence. The word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains – sex. Violence devours all it touches, its voracious appetite rarely fulfilled. Yet violence doesn’t only destroy. It creates and moulds as well. Let’s examine closely then this dangerously evil creation, this new breed encased and contained within the supple skin of woman. The softness is there, the unmistakable smell of female. the surface shiny and silken. The body yielding yet wanton. But a word of caution: handle with care and don’t drop your guard. This rapacious new breed prowls both alone and in packs. Operating at any level, at any time, anywhere and with anybody. Who are they? One might be your secretary, your doctor’s receptionist, or a dancer in a go-go club!”

And the go-go dancing commences. Odd-angled camera shots show close-ups of Varla, Rosie, and Billie (Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams, respectively) shimmying with fervor. Satana’s contortions are especially remarkable; but of course, this former burlesque dancer is the woman who claims to have taught Elvis how to gyrate and grind.

After work, entertainment for the grrrls consists of driving Porches at top speeds in the Mojave desert, playing chicken, bisexuality (or as one character calls it, “AM/FM”), skinny dipping, smokes and booze.

Varla is icy-cool and wildly psychotic. She’s the unspoken leader of this gang of go-go dancers, one of whom describes her as being “like a velvet glove cast in iron.” Varla’s sensuality and hard personality are an intimidating intoxication which allows her to easily manipulate others.

Whilst in the desert the women come across a cocky young man named Tommy, and his annoying, bikini-clad girlfriend, Linda (Susan Bernard, apparently Playboy magazine’s first Jewish playmate). Tommy’s a member of a driving club and wants to do some timing out on the flats. Perky Linda is prepared with a stopwatch, but Varla goads Tommy into a race by letting him know that she’s a better driver than he could ever be.

“I don’t beat clocks, just people.”

Varla wins the race and Tommy, feeling emasculated, attempts to physically beat her down. But he chose to mess with a woman could take care of herself.

Varla breaks his back and kidnaps his girlfriend.

And that’s just the first 20 minutes of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

From a contemporary perspective, it’s as if Quentin Tarantino, John Waters, and Ed Wood had made a film together. It’s exploitative to the max, yet also oddly (mildly) empowering—without ever intending to be. The clothes are fabulous, as is the wickedly delivered bad dialogue. All of Varla’s lines are shouted—a ludicrous technique that Waters would incorporate into some of his own work. F,P!K!K! is offensive, and thrilling; a bad grrrl Thelma and Louise meets Kill Bill meets Pricilla Queen of the Desert meets Glen or Glenda. With lot’s of camera angles completely swiped from Orson Well’s Citizen Kane.

As David Schmader has said of Showgirls, another awesomely awful film, and it’s a fitting commentary here too,

“The subtext is staggering until you notice there is no subtext.”

In my research Varla has often been referenced as a proto-action heroine—a complicated, if not problematic, reading to be sure. In a feminist interpretation questions to ask include: What are the criteria for an action heroine? Does Varla fit these in any way? Does being a villain negate her feminist potential? What about the objectification of her body—or is she in control of that? How does “The Kick-Ass Life of Tura Satana” (as is the title of her in-the-works autobiography) play a part?* What about the director’s intentions?

Writer/director Russ “he-who-loves-big-bosoms” Meyer has said, “I personally prefer the aggressive female . . . the superwoman.” As with William Moulton Marston, creator of Wonder Woman, his desire is not to experience an heroic woman but a dominant one. There’s essentialism in the work of both these men. Their belief that women are the superior sex makes for a difficult feminist interpretation (as I believe in feminism as a philosophy of equality).

But just because Marston and Meyer had fetishistic leanings (bondage and breasts respectively), it doesn’t mean that feminist potential can’t be found (or that sexual play/the female body can’t be celebrated). Many have found inspiration in Wonder Woman’s altruism and empowerment in Varla’s karate chops.

Here, though, in the world of the Pussycats, the deepest message about gender (and female bodies) is that women have just as much potential for selfishness and evil as men. One could suggest that their wild desert antics are a release from their evenings of objectification. That their violence stems from the filthy behavior of men. But as my husband asked upon viewing, “Why, then would they put themselves in that situation to begin with?”

It’s a world of contradiction. Sex and sex work can be empowering, it can also be demeaning. There are no easy answers. What is unique, or at least was in 1965, was to see a woman who was capable of defending herself.

*Varla is heavily infused with Tura, and Satana is spellbinding. How does an actresses’ personal life/embodiment contribute to the experience and/or interpretation of the character? When I met her at Comic Con (at her autograph booth) I told her how exhilarating it was to watch her as Varla—to experience a woman so powerful. She replied, “You know what it is? It’s that I’m just as powerful in person as I am on screen.”

For more on Russ Meyer and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! buy, Big Bosoms and Square Jaws

For more on the multivalence of female action heroes, particularly on negotiating simultaneous feelings of disgust, pleasure, empowerment and embarrassment, buy the fabulous, Super Bitches and Action Babes:

For more on women and violence on screen buy: Reel Knockouts