Tura Satana, an actress who gained cult status for her role in the 1965 Russ Meyer movie "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!," died Friday of heart failure at a hospital in Reno.
Satana's death was confirmed by her manager, Siouxzan Perry, who said Satana was 72.
"Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" Satana played Varla, the leader of a "daredevil trio of sports car-driving vixens," wrote film critic B. Ruby Rich in the Village Voice in 1995. "She drove her Porsche like a bat out of hell, delivered her dialogue with an arched eyebrow that let the audience in on the joke and tossed men into the air like they were pancakes."
After Varla kills a young man with her bare hands, the three women kidnap his girlfriend and converge on the desert ranch of a wealthy older man and his two sons. "The ensuing conflict is like a clash between King Kong and Godzilla," Kevin Thomas wrote in The Times in 2004. Thomas said the film was "loaded with sex and violence to the point of parody — which may be the point."
The movie was "a loser, absolute loser" when first released, Meyer told The Times in 1994. But by the 1990s it had been rediscovered. Filmmaker John Waters even called it "not only the best movie ever made but the best movie that ever will be made."
Meyer insisted she play Varla with raw strength, Satana told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2008. The result was "the Arnold Schwarzenegger of bad girls," the Chicago Tribune's Michael Wilmington wrote in 1995. "Clad in black leather with a yawning cleavage, [she] is almost insanely voluptuous.... Satana looks like a comic book temptress come to life."
She was born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi in Hokkaido, Japan, on July 10, 1938, Perry said. Her birth year was listed as 1935 by some sources.
Her family moved to California in 1942 and was sent to the Manzanar internment camp during World War II. She grew up in Chicago, worked as an exotic dancer and nude model, and said she turned down a marriage proposal from Elvis Presley.
Her other credits include the film "Irma La Douce" in 1963 and the television shows "Burke's Law" and "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."
Satana's survivors include sisters Amparo Steitz of Grass Valley, Calif., and Pamela Trujillo of Loves Park, Ill.; daughters Kalani Silverman of Enoch, Utah, and Jade Fall of Reno; and six grandchildren, Perry said. She was married three times; her third husband died in 2000.