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Velvet Glove Cast in Iron: The Films of Tura Satana

Evolution

The background to this one is pretty simple and roughly what you'd expect. I first saw Tura Satana in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! years ago, possibly after seeing the Russ Meyer episode of Jonathan Ross's The Incredibly Strange Film Show. I adored both it and her performance in it.

Beyond merely staying with me though, the film kept getting better with each viewing and those viewings started to add up. TCM Underground screened it. The Midnite Movie Mamacita screened it here in Tempe as a fundraiser for Varla Films, the company making a documentary on Tura. I rewatched it when reviewing El Monstro del Mar!, an Australian feature which clearly wore its influence on its sleeve. Recently I introduced it to friends who had never seen it.

It got better and it got more important. I remembered that John Waters had claimed that it was his favourite film of all time and others kept raising it in similar conversations. As I explored both regular and cult cinema as a film critic for Apocalypse Later, I gradually realised just how important Pussycat and especially Tura's performance in it really was.

I've claimed that she changed the face of American cinema in one early scene in this film and I don't believe that's hyperbole; it's such an archetypal scene, as she challenges, races, cheats, fights and eventually kills the epitome of the Hollywood leading man of the time, leaving him dead in the desert dirt. It's the point where she proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that women could be tough, sexy and dangerous all at the same time. What little progress Hollywood has made on that front over the last half century is owed to her and that scene.

I also have a habit of following filmmakers, whether actors, directors or whatever, from the titles that introduced me to their work to what they did before or after it. I discovered that Tura had a surprisingly sparse filmography for someone who had made such a massive impact on American cinema. In fact, I'd seen the majority of her films by this point, so I thought it would be appropriate to track down the rest and put a filmography book together that ran through all her work. I'd begun this even before she died in 2011.

The title comes from a line of dialogue spoken in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, when Billie tells Tura Satana's character, "You're cute, like a velvet glove cast in iron. And like a gas chamber, Varla, a real fun gal."

Foreword and Afterword

Sadly, I never met Tura Satana. She did make a film-related appearance here in Phoenix, in February 2006, when the Midnite Movie Mamacita brought her and Haji out to the Paper Heart for an event called Party with the Pussycats. Unfortunately, this was before I knew about the film scene in Phoenix. I have, however, got to meet a number of people who worked with Tura at other local events and I asked two of them if they would be willing to contribute to the book.

The foreword is by Peaches Christ, a legendary San Francisco drag queen, whose long-running Midnight Mass cult film series at the Castro began with Tura Satana as a guest. I'd met Peaches at MADCAP Theatres a few times, initially when she presented her horror feature, All About Evil.

The afterword is by Cody Jarrett, the director of the modern women-in-prison feature, Sugar Boxx, which featured Tura Satana in a key supporting role. He's also working on Tura's biopic, based on her unpublished memoirs. Again, I'd met Cody at MADCAP Theatres when he came out to support a screening of Sugar Boxx with both leading ladies in tow.

Many thanks to both of you!

Films Covered

Here's a complete list of chapters which details the films and TV show episodes included:

Cover Art

With the book springing from such an iconic moment in such an iconic film, clearly the front cover should depict that scene in some way. However, thinking not only of this cover but those of other filmography books that I have planned for the future, I decided that each such book should have a cover reminiscent of a magazine cover, using the appropriate style for the subject.

Here, I figured it should use the style of the old American stag magazines. These weren't porn, as the name might suggest; they were more about adventure but wild and overblown in ways that fit the pulp era. Their covers often featured a tough, manly man in a tough, manly pose, with a scantily clad young lady in a submissive position at their feet, perhaps being saved from some incredible danger by the hero above. Varla wasn't a hero in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, but it seemed appropriate to swap those gender roles and invert the cover to show her dominance over the all-American boy lying dead at her feet.

I asked Keith Decesare of KAD Creations if he'd be interested in attempting this cover, not because he'd drawn anything like it before but because he'd shown his versatility in other work. I knew him first for his steampunk ladies, but more recently saw his work for another author, Sharon Skinner, for whom he created covers for The Nelig Stones and Mirabella & The Faded Phantom, two very different images that were just as different from those steampunk ladies.

I talked him through my idea and sent him some images of Tura and let him run with it. His main image was perfect right off the bat, as was his Apocalypse Later banner, but we took some time on the rest of the cover text. I'd recommend him absolutely for anyone seeking for a book cover, whatever you want it to look like.

I should add that the one mistake I made with this cover was entirely my fault. It's a slimmer volume than my first book which makes the spine an awkward thing to get right. I thought I'd nailed it but, because I wanted quick delivery of my books to put on tables at Phoenix Comicon, I didn't order a proof copy. When they arrived, I immediately realised that I'd got the spine wrong. This image highlights what it should have looked like.

Layout Notes

I wrote this book in OpenOffice running on Linux because I like free software (free as in both beer and speech), so naturally I laid out this book in OpenOffice too [note: I've since switched to LibreOffice but the same applies].

I found that I didn't know as much as I thought I did on that front, so had to google a few things. Many thanks to Alexandra Rowland, a fantasy author who doesn't know me from Adam but who wrote a thoroughly informative blog entry on the subject, Formatting POD Novels with OpenOffice in Linux. She taught me a lot and saved me a lot of time.

It's typeset in Gentium, which is a open source font, released under the SIL Open Font License, which means that it can be used, modified and redistributed for free.

Creative Commons

Current copyright law in the US tells me that I should be able to profit from my work until 75 years after I've been buried. I don't buy into that because copyright was always intended to benefit the public (not creators) by ensuring a constant flow of work into the public domain where the public could do whatever they liked with it. It's how Disney got famous! To ensure that creators kept creating, it also gave them a temporary monopoly on their work, which was originally 14 years. If I couldn't make money off a book in 14 years, then let the public have their turn.

I toyed with the idea of copyrighting my books for 14 years and then releasing them into the public domain, but quickly realised I'd never remember to do that. Instead, I chose to license my books through Creative Commons, using the CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 copyleft license. That means that you are legally allowed to copy and distribute them, with my blessing, as long as you:

Free Download

So please download a PDF of Velvet Glove Cast in Iron: The Films of Tura Satana from the link below, read it and share it with others so that it can reach as wide an audience as possible. Remember, piracy is not the enemy; obscurity is the enemy!

Buy a Print Copy

Of course, I don't get paid anything from a free download so, if you enjoy the book, please consider buying a print copy to show your appreciation and help me pay my bills. If you don't have room for dead tree products, then please consider buying a print copy for a friend or donate one to a library instead. Either way, I get paid and someone gets to read a good book.

New copies are available for $12.99 at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

If you're in the UK, the book is £9.99 at Amazon.co.uk. It's also available from the various other Amazon sites. Here's what I look like in Japanese.

Signed copies are available from the Dog Eared Pages used bookstore in Phoenix. Trust me, it would not be a hardship for me to travel to a great used bookstore to replenish my stock!

Review the Book

Even if you only read the free PDF, please consider writing a review of it on Amazon.com. Reviews are like gold at Amazon, who will promote books that have obtained enough of them. Getting fifty reviews at Amazon would be a Christmas present for me.

Of course, the same goes for other independent authors too. If you review their books at Amazon as well as mine, you can help to make it Christmas every month in indie world and we'll love you all the more!

Details

Velvet Glove Cast in Iron is my second book and the first volume in my Filmography series that focuses on documenting entire careers in film. Other technical details are:


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