“Tura Thursday” is a regular series celebrating the legacy of the late, great Tura Satana, best known as Varla in the 1965 Russ Meyer cult classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. This series is curated by Tura’s longtime manager, friend, confidant and CEO of Tura Satana Productions, Siouxzan Perry.
This week we have an excerpt from Hank Willow’s interview with Tura Satana and Lori Williams in the Hollywood Investigator 2003. This is a great read for all FPKK fans with some perhaps not so well-known facts about the careers of both Tura and Lori, offering a deeper insight into the huge impact the film had on the feminist movement in film both inside and outside the industry. Haji unfortunately missed this interview, but, we will, of course, feature “Rosie” in a future Tura Thursday blog.
“Tura Satana and Lori Williams (Billy in FPKK) reminisced over their 1966 cult movie classic, Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill, at the Santa Monica Barnes & Noble bookstore on June 27, 2003 with the author/publicist Hal Lifson, promoting his book, Hal Lifson’s 1966! A Personal View of the Coolest Year in Pop Culture History (Intro by Adam West & Nancy Sinatra), who said that Faster Pussycat was “one of the forerunners to the feminist movement in filmmaking and Russ Meyer’s best movie, with a real political message, as well as an interesting story.”
Shockingly, despite Faster Pussycat’s eventual cult success, Tura Satana almost turned down her chance to audition — because of director Russ Meyer’s soft porn reputation! Only after Satana’s agent reassured her that the film “wasn’t like that” did Satana go see Meyer.
Once at the audition, Satana said, “Russ asked me, ‘How would you play the lead in this script?’ So I read a couple of scenes and I said, I could play her two ways. I could play her very soft and feminine, or I could play her as a very ballsy woman.” Russ asked her to read it both ways — and picked the ballsy broad.
Satana said everyone had fun shooting Faster Pussycat, despite its desert location. “We did everything together. We moved scenery, we moved props, people, bodies, rattlesnakes, tarantulas. We had a pet tarantula that loved to crawl up into my hair.
“Of course, it was like 110 in the shade, and being in solid black tends to get a little warm. I wound up with a hell of a sunburn. But it wasn’t as bad as some of the other girls.”
“Black has always been my color,” she added.
Faster Pussycat, shot over eight weeks in 1965, was released in 1966. Pop cult expert Hal Lifson commented that eight weeks is a “lot longer than a lot of B movies at the time,” adding that it “really should be seen on the big screen.” “Everything was done with stationary cameras,” said Satana. “No dollies, no moving, no handheld cameras.”
Faster Pussycat is famous for its femme fights, predating Lara Croft, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Emma Peel.
“I did all my own fight scenes,” said Satana. “I choreographed all the fights. I had to literally carry some of the guys through the fight scenes because they were afraid of getting hurt. Especially the first guy that I broke his neck [in the film]. He was scaredest of all. He was the biggest chicken when he had the tarantula! But nobody ever got hurt.”
Lori Williams came to Faster Pussycat through a cattle call — but nearly failed to get cast! “Russ wasn’t going to hire me because he didn’t think I was buxom enough,” said Williams. “But then Russ decided to work it out in wardrobe.”Despite attending the cattle call, Williams too had reservations about working for a soft porn director. “It kind of scared me at the time, because I was known for popcorn and fluff beach party movies. But it turned out to be one of the better experiences, because Russ was such a professional. He was a good guy. He ran a tight ship.”
The script’s car chases also unnerved Williams. “I didn’t know how to drive. I learned on the film how to drive.” Unlike the older and wiser Satana, Williams was inexperienced in many ways. “The first shoot was at night, in this bar. I was like nineteen, and I was clueless. I didn’t drink or anything. I didn’t know what was going on. So they said, ‘Jump up on the bar and we’re gonna put some music on and this is the opening of the movie. Just get up there and dance.’ ”
“Faster Pussycat showed that women didn’t have to be the weaker sex,” said Satana. “We didn’t have to pussyfoot around guys. Someone got in our way, we just knocked them out. Thelma and Louise was just a takeoff on Faster Pussycat. Basically said the same thing, that women didn’t have to be the weaker sex.”
Lifson said the film “stands apart from the Russ Meyer library because of its [feminist] sociological message. I always wondered why some of his later films he didn’t really try to do that.”
“He went back to his old [porn] motifs,” said Satana. “The one thing about this film he was trying to prove, his morals were that good always winds up beating bad. That’s why we had to die in the end, because we were bad girls.”
“And sadly,” quipped Lifson, “the trend of women wearing white go-go boots in the desert didn’t last.”
“When I see that movie now,” said Williams, “I see all the characters as comic book come to life. I would have lines laying atop the Porsche. Nobody does that. I fought Russ on that. I had studied serious acting. Why don’t I just talk? He said, ‘You don’t understand, this is a cartoon, this is a camp, exaggerate it, be corny.‘ And he was right.”
In the 1970s, Williams went on to a career guest starring on television, including “about four” episodes of Charlie’s Angels. She sees the recent film version as an extension of Faster Pussycat’s comic book aesthetics and feminist message. “It’s escapist and fun and still has that message. Demi Moore is a statement in that she’s older than the other gals, and hanging the toughest of them all.”
Williams likes the message that older women are still tough and sexy — because she quit acting due to ageism! She was still getting invited to “T&A calls” in the late 1970s. “I was getting very uncomfortable. I was like thirty-two, and the oldest person at the interview was eighteen. This was for a movie, and right before I came in, I heard ‘Now the next one coming in is Lori Williams. She’s an oldie but a goodie.’ I heard that at age thirty-two. I walked in with a bikini on, because it was a bikini call, and my face was hot.”
The recent mega-success of Lara Croft and the Charlie’s Angels movie indicates that Faster Pussycat’s kick-ass broads are here to stay. “I think that door’s been kicked way open,” said Williams. “I don’t think it’s ever going to be closed again. I think that’s so over.”
Satana added that it’d better be, or she’ll kick it back open. “It’s much better than it was. Women have finally come into their own. Before they were housewives. They were weak, or they were somebody’s girlfriend running away. Somebody hiding, somebody crying, somebody weeping. But now it’s a whole new ballgame. Women are starting to do something else beside stand in the kitchen and cook dinner, or look pretty, or be an ornament on the beach. You can still look pretty and kick ass.”
As mentioned at the beginning of the blog, Haji did not make it for the interview, but in true Haji style, she did make it for the photo shoot … and Siouxzan was thrown in for good measure!