|“||I'm all steel now. Ernst, I'm made of steel. No sentiment, no softness. Just purpose and will.||„|
|~ Vollmer proclaiming his delusions of invulnerability.|
Peter Vollmer is the villainous protagonist of the The Twilight Zone episode "He's Alive".
He was portrayed by Dennis Hopper, who also played Howard Payne in Speed, Frank Booth in Blue Velvet, President Koopa in Super Mario Bros, Deacon in Waterworld, Tom Ripley in The American Friend, and Victor Drazen in 24.
Vollmer is introduced at a pathetic street rally consisting of himself, three fellow neo-Nazis, and the jeering crowd of onlookers. Easily flustered and agitated by the crowd's jeering, Vollmer is easily beaten when he attempts to confront the crowd and is dismissed by the police when they arrive to break up the disturbance. Left alone to weep, Rod Serling's opening narration comes in, saying the following: Portrait of a bush-league Führer named Peter Vollmer, a sparse little man who feeds off his self-delusions and finds himself perpetually hungry for want of greatness in his diet. And like some goose-stepping predecessors he searches for something to explain his hunger, and to rationalize why a world passes him by without saluting. That something he looks for and finds is in a sewer. In his own twisted and distorted lexicon he calls it faith, strength, truth. But in just a moment Peter Vollmer will ply his trade on another kind of corner, a strange intersection in a shadowland called the Twilight Zone. Beaten down by failure, Peter finds his way to the apartment of his old friend Ernst. Giving Peter a couch for the night and some wine, Ernst finds Peter's neo-Nazi clothes and confront him. Pitifully trying to argue that his beliefs are only a political philosophy, Ernst fires back that he knows that exact philosophy after spending years in the Dachau concentration camp for being a Jew. Peter is soon pleading with Ernst, begging to remain in the apartment like he had so many times before when his father had beaten him and his mother was unstable. Ernst sighs and, saying that he only sees the little boy who cried on his couch, lets Peter stay.
Hours later, Peter wakes up to hear someone calling him from the street. The man is obscured by shadow, but Peter is enticed when the man mentions he can help make Peter into something more. Peter listens to the man's words, of how he needs to make his speeches powerful, to connect himself with the mobs that would follow his leadership. Realizing that the shadowy figure is inspiring him, Peter soon becomes an adored public speaker, and begins to draw larger, more supportive crowds by the end of the first act.
Walking out of a hall after a successful rally, Peter basks in the applause of the crowd and adoration of his friends. Even when confronted by the owner of the hall over being late on the rent, the "donation" of two hundred dollars from the shadowy man quickly settles the matter. Letting his friends continue to praise him, Peter excuses himself to go back into the hall and soak in the recent applause. There he finds the mysterious benefactor waiting in the seats. Thanking the man, Peter asks to actually see who he is thanking, but the man brushes the offer aside and gives Peter another suggestion.
Peter is told that to continue to grow his movement, he needs a martyr, a cause celebre to further draw the mobs into his narrative on the world. Peter is reluctant at first, realizing that it would mean one of his friends would have to be killed on his word. At this point, Peter's friend Nick Bloss walks in and asks Peter if he's almost done. Peter asks Nick to send in his friend Frank in. The shadowy figure congratulates Peter on choosing the perfect figure to be a martyr, and even though Peter meekly protests the idea of killing an old friend he easily orders Frank to kill Nick on suspicion of Nick being an informant for the police. Nick is later found dead, with a note pinned to his body reading, "A Good Nazi".
As time passes, Peter continues to draw crowds, and the next scene focuses on Ernst and a friend at a local candy shop. The owner mentions that Peter has grown popular, and Ernst scowls at the hall across the street overflowing with people. As the shop owner watches, Ernst launches into a long tirade of the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany.
- They were brown scum then. A temporary insanity, part of the passing scene, too monstrous to be real. So we ignored them. Or laughed at them. Because we couldn't believe there were enough insane people to walk alongside of them. And then one morning, the country woke up from an uneasy sleep, and there was no more laughter. The Peter Vollmers had taken over! The wild animals had changed places with us in the cage ...But not again. It mustn't happen again! We can't let it! We simply can't let it happen again! All-all that nightmare! Oh no. No, not this time!
As Peter works up the crowd at his latest rally, Ernst walks onto the stage and breaks Peter down in front of his crowd. He speaks on Peter's weaknesses, on his past, and calls out the people for being so willing to fall in sway to "A 1963 Furher fresh of the assembly line!" Frank tells Peter to put Ernst down, as Ernst shouts, "Ja, ja, put me down, put me down!" Grabbing Peter's armband, he scolds Peter and says that it is his courage, his strength, along with all the trappings of a good Nazi rally. As Ernst shouts out about Peter and the "sieg heil", Peter slaps the old man.
- The rebuttal. The only one your kind knows how to give. This is your furher! I give him to you. A gift from the sewers.
Proudly walking out of Peter's rally, Ernst leaves as the crowd starts to talk. Later Peter is left broken again on the stage, shattered by having to treat his oldest friend in such a way. The mysterious figure appears at the back of the hall, scolding Peter for having the voice of a lion and instincts of a rabbit. Peter fires back that he's sick of a man in the shadows telling him what to do, that he plans the battles but never fights, and always hides in the darkness. The figure fires back that he was planning campaigns when Peter was an infant, fighting battles when Peter's universe was a crib, and that he invented darkness. Finally, the man steps forward and reveals himself. Peter's eyes go wide as Adolf Hitler himself steps out of the shadows. Panicked, Peter flees the hall.
Stumbling back into the hall, Peter stares at the massive portraits of the Nazi leadership that stood behind him during his speeches. Utterly demolished now, Peter cries out that they chose him. Hitler soon steps up to the dais and corrects Peter, that by taking on his ideas and beliefs Peter in fact chose him, and all that comes with him. Stating that now he gives the orders, Hitler gloats about his own accomplishments and proves he is in control now. Hitler says that Ernst must be eliminated as a danger to Peter's growing power. Throwing Peter a Luger pistol, Peter readily agrees as he seems to realize this will be his fate now. Hitler states that this is only the dawn and that it will be a long day. Saluting Hitler, Peter storms to Ernst's apartment in full regalia and confronts the old man. As Peter goes on about how Ernst didn't listen and gloats about how much greater he's become, Ernst chuckles and says he heard all he could stand and that whoever helped Peter rise to power, he'd have to be very imposing. More intimidating than Peter. Even as Peter pulls the gun, Ernst nods and says, "More imposing than that too Peter." Again Ernst breaks Peter down, from a ravaged child wanting love to a grown man wanting respect.
Quickly brushing off the words, Peter says he's all steel. Not wanting any more of Peter's rhetoric, Ernst tells Peter to do what he must and be done with it, but that no one can ever kill an idea. Shooting Ernst, Peter seems shocked by what he's done as Ernst coughs out his last words.
- All steel...all strength... But at the expense of the thing most other men have... Some fragments of decency...that tell them right from wrong... They can feel guilt and dishonor...that make them... that make them love... Yes Peter...you have steel...But you have no heart...
Marching back into the hall, Peter seems confused by everything that's happened. Realizing what he's done, Hitler's voice echoes over the speakers and captures Peter again. Staring at the massive portrait of Hitler behind the dais, Peter reaffirms his willingness to Hitler's beliefs. Calling his oldest friend less than a man and saying that the murder made Peter feel immortal, Hitler screams out, "Mr. Vollmer, WE ARE IMMORTAL!"
The lights in the hall come on, and Peter spins around to see the police walking forward wanting to bring him in for conspiring in the murder of Nick. Asking him to throw the gun down and come quietly, Peter, rather than complying, bolts for the door and the police give chase. Trying to run up a fire escape, Peter is shot down by an officer and falls to the alleyway. Pathetically Peter tries to keep running, but it's too late. Bleeding out and staring at his bloody hands, Peter looks up and in confusion tells the offcer, "There's something very wrong here... You've made a terrible mistake... I'm made out of steel... Don't you understand that I'm made out of steel?"
As Peter lays dying, Hitler's shadow appears and walks onward through the night as the police radio in what happened. As the shadow passes, Rod Serling returns for the closing narration.
- Where will he go next, this phantom from another time, this resurrected ghost of a previous nightmare – Chicago? Los Angeles? Miami, Florida? Vincennes, Indiana? Syracuse, New York? Anyplace, everyplace, where there's hate, where there's prejudice, where there's bigotry. He's alive. He's alive so long as these evils exist. Remember that when he comes to your town. Remember it when you hear his voice speaking out through others. Remember it when you hear a name called, a minority attacked, any blind, unreasoning assault on a people or any human being. He's alive because through these things we keep him alive.
At the start of the episode, Peter is a lowly pathetic little man with delusions of grandeur and desperately searching to become something greater. He fully realizes how weak he is, but continues to cling to the Nazi ideology in the hope that something can come from it. As he is guided, he slowly becomes the man he has always wanted to be, but by the end realizes and even accepts that all he is at the end is a mouthpiece for Hitler's own ideals and goals.
It is reasonable to believe Peter was going insane through the episode, as by the end he has become so divorced from reality he cannot accept that he is dying from the police shooting him.
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