The Twilight Zone

Season 4 Episode 4

He's Alive

Aired Unknown Jan 24, 1963 on CBS

Episode Fan Reviews (3)

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  • Vulnerable to the Temptations of Misguided Ideas...

    Marc Scott Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion, knocks "He's Alive" because according to him it does not wash that the character of Peter Vollmer (Dennis Hopper) is deeply committed to the Nazi Party, yet he claims that the only person he ever loved is an elderly concentration camp survivor, Ernst Ganz (Ludwig Donath). What comes across quite effectively in "He's Alive" is that Peter Vollmer's Nazism is still very incipient. Additionally, as a child (long before he joined the Nazi Party) it was neighbor Ernst who sheltered and comforted Peter from the abuse and neglect of his parents, and even as an adult and a Nazi, Peter still seeks solace from Ernst when his racist views get him beaten in a street fight. Thus, at least when the episode begins, Peter might accept the teachings of Nazism including the anti-Semitism of it, but he has yet to apply it to specific Jews-including the one who is the only person who ever treated him with any kindness. He has not reached the point where he regards a Jew as a Jew and all Jews must be destroyed whether they have been kind to him or not. Indeed, Peter's indoctrination is likely not complete until the moment Peter murders Ernst on orders from Adolf Hitler (Curt Conway)-at that moment he reaches the latter point. Until then Peter likely still loved Ernst even after Ernst humiliated him in public. One of the major points of "He's Alive" is that initially Peter Vollmer has much to learn about Nazism, including adhering to its doctrine both in word and in deed, and Hitler is just the one to teach Peter all about it.

    Furthermore, it is because in the beginning that Peter's Nazism has yet to coalesce, that Ernst is willing to let him spend the night in his apartment despite the fact that Peter is a Nazi. For Ernst understands what can drive someone to embrace such a heinous ideology, after all, he witnessed this in Germany years before. When a country is in shambles economically, politically, socially, etc. its people are going to feel disgraced, indignant, afraid, and desperate and will be easy pickings for those who offer a solution even if the cure is worse than the sickness. Peter Vollmer was a victim of child abuse and neglect and therefore is bitter, frustrated, lonely, and unhappy and Ernst knows all of this very well. Hence Ernst understands that Peter is vulnerable to the temptations of misguided ideas and continues to take pity on him and give him shelter. But eventually Ernst reaches the point where he knows that his sympathy for Peter notwithstanding, Peter is the proselytizer of an extremely dangerous dogma and must be stanched. That is when he interrupts Peter's speech and discredits him. "He's Alive" excellently illustrates the breaking points of both men: Ernst for the better; Peter for the worse.

  • The Darkness in Mankind

    Professional Reviewers for 4 decades have panned this episode for its leap of logic, "Americans" will never accept this kind of evil in our hearts and minds. Flash forward to 2016, disillusioned people and disenfranchised people are supporting someone with heavily racist, xenophobic ideals akin to Peter Vollmer. We haven't learned our lesson from Hitler's evil legacy, which is the heart of of the episode. People want scapegoats rather than to face up to the real facts of their lives, there are no glories for a lot of people, just an endless stream of failures and false hopes.

    I liked the use of shadows in this episode hiding the shadowy figure's true form, something benign in the darkness from the little money that is left for Peter on the street or the pep talk. Then as the rhetoric ramps up and the body count mounts, we see the reality, the figure is Hitler and the benign idea is Fascism.

    Is patriotism bad? Is national security bad? Is accountability in our government bad? No

    All of those things are hallmarks of normal discourse in both major US political parties, but beyond the issues, the evil spirit that can drive it into hell is "fear of others", whether it is the others as in Foreigners (Russians in 1960's and Mexicans in 2010's), elite politicians (Communist sympathizers in 1960's or Democrat/Republican establishment leaders in 2010's), or even the simplest issue of a capitalist system the poor mobs of people versus the rich few.

    This is a great underrated episode that deserves a second look.
  • More timely now than when first aired.

    This is more than just a great episode, it is an important one as well. Almost fifty years after it was first aired, hate is still an issue. In our country and throughout the world for that matter. Dennis Hopper plays a small time hate monger in one of the early roles of his career, who gets a lesson in how to really do it right from one of the most evil human monsters ever to walk the face of the earth. For fans of The Twilight Zone and Dennis Hopper as well, this is a must have for your video collection!