Cult Actress Tura Satana Dies at 72

Tura Satana, most famous for her role as Varla, the sultry, violent bad girl in Russ Meyer’s 1965 exploitation film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, died at age 72 last night in Reno, NV, of reported heart failure. Satana was one seriously amazing woman, overcoming many hardships to become a figurehead of female empowerment. Her role as the violent yet unfailingly feminine Varla has influenced many films and characters, including Xena Warrior Princess and the Kill Bill films. An enduring cult actress still beloved by many fans due to her take-no-prisoners attitude and aggressive femininity, she also dated Elvis and even turned down his marriage proposal. Click through for more about her life and a few of our favorite pictures of our favorite cult killer.

Born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi in Hokkaido, Japan, to a father of Japanese and Filipino descent and a mother who was a Cheyenne Indian and Scots-Irish circus performer. With her exotic looks and an early curvaceous figure, Satana used a fake ID to start modeling at 13, both in bathing suits and nude, including photo shoots for comedian Harold Lloyd, who did not know her true age. She then began exotic dancing, eventually becoming an acclaimed burlesque star before getting into acting, appearing in films like The Astro-Zombies (1968), The Doll Squad (1974) and Mark of the Astro-Zombies (2002).

However, only the most dedicated of film buffs know her from anything other than the crazily violent cult classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Satana singlehandedly made the film a classic with her unmatched sexuality and super tough-girl act. As she said in a 2008 interview, “[The film] shows that women don’t have to be weak and helpless to be sexy. We can be in control and still be feminine…Varla was an outlet for some of the anger I felt growing up. She was also a statement to women all over the world that you can be a take-charge person and still be sexy. She also showed the women world-wide that women don’t have to be weak, simpering females. They just go after what they want and usually get it.” Damn straight.