The actress Tura Satana (nee Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi) died earlier this week. A walking melting pot, she owed her exotic look to Japanese, Filipino, Cheyenne, and Scots-Irish ancestry. I met Tura briefly about a year ago, but I first saw her image on screen in the cult classic B movie Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965). She acted in many other films, but none so special as this one.
The mid-60s were a peculiar period in filmmaking when moviemakers tossed the Hays code into the waste bin, but still exercised significant self-restraint, partly for commercial reasons and partly to avoid provoking government censorship. (The MPAA rating system was adopted in 1968, paving the way for more graphic adult films.) No movie illustrates this moment of cusp better than Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! It is superb trash. It is trash transcending itself. There is not a scene in it that cannot be aired on primetime free broadcast TV; not a word needs to be bleeped, not an image needs to be excised. Yet, the movie never airs there because, collectively, the scenes make something definitely not for kids, even by today’s standards. There are busty killer babes, a threatened innocent, and (four years before Manson) a perverse murderous family in an isolated desert ranch.
It is commonly said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. True enough. Yet it is also true that one man’s trash is another’s garbage. No, the words aren’t quite synonymous. Garbage is just…well… garbage, but trash (as John Waters, for one, is proud to call his films) is something more sublime. It is the high art of low life. Done right, it is more satisfying than either high art or low life alone.
So, thanks, Tura, for helping to give us some truly satisfying trash – and yes, that’s a compliment. I’ll be slipping the DVD into my player tonight.