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Film / The Ace of Hearts

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The Ace of Hearts is a 1921 film directed by Wallace Worsley, starring Lon Chaney.

A terrorist organization, referred to as "a certain brotherhood", carries out assassinations from time to time. When it's time to kill "the man who has lived too long", as the group refers to its targets, they draw cards to decide who will carry out the deed. Whoever picks the Ace of Hearts has to carry out the murder.

The group does not consists of scraggly bearded radicals, but rather respectable-looking men in suits. Among their number are Farallone (Chaney) and Forrest, the youngest man in the group. The brotherhood contains exactly one woman, the young and good-looking but dedicated to the cause Lilith. Farallone and Forrest are both in love with Lilith, but she is too focused on the brotherhood's work. However, when Forrest draws the Ace of Hearts and is tasked with killing the brotherhood's latest target, Lilith offers to marry him in order to help steel his nerve for the assassination. This leads to a crisis of conscience for the newlyweds, and Farallone as well.

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Tropes:

  • Chickification: Lilith starts off as an ice-cold revolutionary. She's the one who deals out the cards when it's time to decide who'll commit a murder. But after love and marriage with Forrest she becomes much more of a conventional Love Interest, getting all emotional and weepy and frantic to save her husband.
  • Die Laughing: Farallone, determined to save Lilith, sneaks the bomb into his lap and activates it. While the bomb is ticking down the men of the brotherhood draw cards to see who will kill Farallone and Lilith. Farallone draws the ace of hearts. He bursts out laughing, and he's still cackling with glee when the bomb goes off and kills all of them.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: Chapter 8 is actually titled "Extra! Extra!" When the men of the brotherhood hear this they charge out into the street, only to find that the newspaper extra is reporting routine political news. This is how they found out that Forrest betrayed them.
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  • Gray Rain of Depression: Farallone stands outside in a bone-soaking thunderstorm, looking into the upstairs window tnat leads to the room where newlyweds Forrest and Lilith are about to go to bed.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: While his fellow anarchists are talking about hunting down and killing Forrest and Lilith, Farallone surreptitiously activates the bomb. It detonates, killing all of the brotherhood and thus saving Forrest and Lilith.
  • Love Redeems: Forrest and Lilith find they suddenly have no stomach for violence after getting married, and specifically after their first night of passion. Forrest goes ahead with the assassination only because he feels like he has to, while Lilith begs Farallone to help Forrest find a way out.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Forrest and Lilith walking down a country road after reading about the explosion and realizing that Farallone saved them.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Not by the brotherhood, anyway. When Lilith tells Farallone that Forrest wants out, Farallone says "We punish traitors with death."
  • The Smurfette Principle: Lilith is the only thing stopping the brotherhood from being a complete sausage fest.
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: Although the implication is that they are left-wing or Bolshevik terrorists, the film actually never does state just what it is the brotherhood is trying to accomplish. The only hint comes when their target is eventually revealed as an arrogant rich fat cat.
  • Title Drop Chapter: The film is divided into ten chapters. Chapter 3 is called "The Ace of Hearts", and is the one where they draw and Forrest winds up tasked with the assassination.
  • Western Terrorists: Seemingly dedicated to blowing up people that need killing.
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