What could scream “zeitgeist” louder than a 1942 American comedy about a troupe of Polish actors who use their knack for disguise to fool Nazis?
Though it was the season for anti-Nazi propaganda, To Be or Not to Be—directed by Jewish auteur Ernst Lubitsch, whose films were known for having a certain “Lubitsch touch”—drew criticism for treating the Nazi threat too flippantly. According to star Jack Benny‘s memoir, even his own father walked out of a screening, claiming that he couldn’t handle his son in a Nazi uniform.
Forty years later, in 1983, Hollywood decided it was time for a remake. With Mel Brooks in the producer and star’s chair, and his wife Anne Bancroft starring opposite, To Be or Not to Be took to theaters once again. The film passed without much commercial success, though Brooks left us an indispensable artifact: “The Hitler Rap.”
His version was zeitgest, too: The tune, released on the film’s soundtrack album, finds Brooks dressed as Hitler and doing his best MC Hammer. After the track’s boisterous intro, Brooks raps, “My name is Adolf/I’m on the mic/I’m gonna hit you with the story of the New Third Reich.”