Tura Satana memorable in Russ Meyer's 'Kill! Kill!'

Actress Tura Satana, whose busty, exotic look and strange brand of charisma commanded the screen in Russ Meyer’s 1965 cult pic “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!,” died Feb. 4, apparently of heart failure. She was 72.

Born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi in Japan — her ancestry was Japanese and Filipino on her father’s side, Cheyenne and Scots-Irish on her mother’s — she was interred for a time at Manzanar during WWII before the family moved to Chicago. She worked as a nude model and exotic dancer from an early age; the comedian Harold Lloyd, for whom she posed for erotic photographs, suggested she try a career as an actress.

She appeared in a small role in Billy Wilder’s 1963 film “Irma La Douce” and had a couple of guest starring roles on TV in 1964, but Satana’s breakthrough role was in Russ Meyer’s 1965 exploitation film “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” She played the ringleader of a gang of go-go dancers who get involved in murder and kidnapping in outrageous fashion. It’s Satana’s performance that makes the film, made for $45,000, memorable: Her character, Varla is feminine yet entirely unrepentant in her use of violence. Dressed in a seductive manner, she nevertheless chastises the men who leer at her: In a memorable scene from the movie, a gas station attendant tells her he believes in “seeing America first”; Varla responds, “You won’t find it down there, Columbus!”

This attitude earned Satana an enduring cult following; her fans include Quentin Tarantino, who has a remake of “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” in development.

Recently, Satana had voiced a role in Rob Zombie’s 2009 animated feature “The Haunted World of El Superbeasto.”

Satana is survived by two daughters and two sisters. A memorial service was being planned for around July 10, Satana’s birthday.

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