When Movie Stars Sing The Theme Song

 

This month Shout! Factory is releasing the Blu-Ray of that notorious ‘80s sleaze-fest VICE SQUAD. Wings Hauser stars as Ramrod, the killer pimp – and he sings over the opening titles. So, we’ve rounded up a baker’s dozen of Stars Singing The Theme Song.

 


THE ACTOR: Lon Chaney, Jr.

THE FILM: SPIDER BABY (1967)

THE SONG: “Cannibal Orgy” (this was the film’s original title)

 

When asked about his memories of Lon Chaney Jr., SPIDER BABY director Jack Hill recalls the actor lumbering around set while sucking on oranges (which were filled with vodka.) That world-weariness is channeled into his haggard performance in the film. But Chaney digs even deeper and brings a maniacal energy to the ominous title track, filling the song with madness, like an orange imbued with booze.

 

 

THE ACTOR: Lee Van Cleef

THE FILM: CAPTAIN APACHE (1971)

THE SONG: “Captain Apache”

 

Bertolt Brecht has been credited with “speak-singing” and it’s become popular with everyone from Lou Reed to William Shatner. In this Spaghetti Western, Lee Van Cleef offers his manly version of the art form, growling out lyrics like “they ain’t got a prayer…” Additionally, Cleef sing-sings an upbeat love song called “April Morning” over the closing credits.

 


THE ACTOR: Pam Grier

THE FILM: THE BIG DOLL HOUSE (1971)

THE SONG: “Long Time Woman”

 

What’s better than a movie where Pam Grier is in prison? A movie where Pam Grier sings about prison! Roger Corman, Jack Hill, and Pam Grier practically invented the “Women in Prison” genre with this movie, which became a surprise hit. Expect to learn more about it in the inevitable (fingers crossed) Pam Grier biopic.

 


THE ACTOR: David Carradine

THE FILM: SONNY BOY (1989)

THE SONG: “Paint”

 

In this strange and polarizing cult film David Carradine plays Pearl. You’re left to decide if Pearl is a woman, a trans-woman, or a man in drag. Either way, the film shows Pearl singing “Paint” during the movie and over the titles. The folksy ballad served as a connective thread for the narration-free trailer. David Carradine wrote the song, and it must have been special to him because the opening lyrics are engraved on his headstone:

 

“I’m looking for a place

Where the dogs don’t bite

Children don’t cry

And everything always works out fine.”

 


THE ACTOR: Phoebe Cates

THE FILM: PARADISE (1982)

THE SONG: “Paradise”

 

In 1982, Phoebe Cates was being groomed to be a pop star; PARADISE hit theaters, and she sings *two* songs in the movie PRIVATE SCHOOL (“Just One Touch” and “How Do I Let You Know”), bringing some pensive melodrama to an otherwise goofy boner-jam comedy where horny dudes dress as women to sneak into an all-girls academy.

 


THE ACTOR: Wings Hauser

THE FILM: VICE SQUAD (1982)

THE SONG: “Neon Slime”

 

As discussed above, Hauser belts out lyrics like:

“Bang! bang! Shoot ‘em up, feelin’ just fine

Been baptized in the river of the Neon Slime!”

The song (and performance) sets the tone for what’s in store for the next 94 minutes. Previously, Hauser had released an album, titled “Your Love Keeps Me Off The Streets.”

 


THE ACTOR: Tab Hunter

THE FILM: POLYESTER (1981)

THE SONG: “Polyester (Title Song)”

 

Years before Neil Patrick Harris and Richard Grieco were ironically making fun of their image, Hollywood leading man Tab Hunter starred in a John Waters movie – and croons the title song, with a delicate blend of heartfelt emotion and campy schmaltz. This track was co-written by Blondie’s Debbie Harry, who provides backing vocals. (Harry also co-wrote the closing credits song, which was performed by Bill Murray – who’s not even in the film.)

 


THE ACTOR: Clint Eastwood

THE FILM: GRAN TORINO (2008)

THE SONG: “Gran Torino”

 

Clint Eastwood produced, directed, and starred in the 2008 film, which means no one could stop him from singing this song over the closing credits. Clint has a long history of warbling, grumbling, and grunting for films like PAINT YOUR WAGON, BRONCO BILLY, and ANY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE (where he performed a honkytonk duet with Ray Charles)

 

‘Someone I Touched’ Theme Song – Cloris Leachman from RetroNewsNow on Vimeo.

 

 

THE ACTOR: Cloris Leachman

THE FILM: SOMEONE I TOUCHED (1975)

THE SONG: “Someone I Touched”

 

Cloris Leachman holds the record for most Emmy Awards for an Actor. (8 wins – and 22 nominations!) The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences passed over her acting (and singing) in this made-for-TV movie about contracting a venereal disease from your cheatin’ spouse.

 


THE ACTOR: Sylvia Kristel

THE FILM: EMMANUELLE II (1975)

THE SONG: “L’Amour d’Aimer”

 

The movie features a series of sensual adventures, involving steamy massage, polo-club locker-room sex, and a three way between a married couple and the husband’s ex-lover’s daughter. Where can you go from there, but a closing title song performed by the film’s star. “L’Amor d’Aimer” translates to “Love of Love.”

 


THE ACTOR: Dan Aykroyd

THE FILM: LOOSE CANNONS (1990)

THE SONG: “Loose Cannons”

 

MARRIED… WITH CHILDREN’s Katy Sagal provides the lead vocal, with some musical moaning from Dan Aykroyd. The former Saturday Night Live star bellows on multiple soundtracks, including DOCTOR DETROIT, DRAGNET, MY STEPMOTHER IS AN ALIEN, and THE GREAT OUTDOORS. It’s a minor miracle that the GHOSTBUSTERS theme wasn’t performed by The Elwood Blues Revue.

 


THE ACTOR: Robert Englund

THE FILM: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988)

THE SONG: “Are You Ready For Freddy”

 

Freddy might not be dead, but his credibility is. Nothing takes the edge off of a horror icon like having him rap with the Fat Boys. Freddy hadn’t hit rock bottom yet.

 


THE ACTOR: Dolly Parton

THE FILM: 9 TO 5 (1980)

THE SONG: “9 to 5”

Fact: This is the only song on our list which was lip-synced by Super Dave Osborne.

 

BONUS TRACK


THE ACTOR: Robert Mitchum

THE FILM: THUNDER ROAD (1958)

THE SONG: “The Ballad of Thunder Road”

 

Mitchum wrote a couple of songs for the moonshine-runnin’ movie. He recorded the title track, but the film features a version performed by Randy Sparks. Mitchum had wanted Sparks to appear in the film, as his kid brother. At one point Elvis Presley was interested in the role; it’s unknown whether he would’ve been tapped to sing “The Ballad of Thunder Road.”

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is an Emmy-nominated comedy writer and an award-winning filmmaker. He hosted AMC’s THE SCI-FI DEPT and currently hosts the live video-variety show KEVIN GEEKS OUT in Brooklyn. www.KevinGeeksOut.com
Kevin Maher

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