This 1930 short is notable in Chinese movie history for two reasons. First, it was the first film Ruan Lingyu made for the Lianhua studio, for which she was the premiere leading lady the rest of her career. Ironically, while Ruan became the leading tragedienne of China's silent era, her first effort for Lianhua was a comedy. Second, it was the first directing credit for Zhu Shilin, who went on to a long and outstanding career as a director and writer for studios in both Shanghai and Hong Kong, in the latter case primarily with the Shaw Brothers.
Zisha Hetong (1930) 自杀合同 (Suicide Pact)
[Before they learn it comes with conditions, a young couple rejoices at the news of his legacy. Ruan Lingyu, left, and Liu Jiqun.]
A young man's wealthy father dies, leaving his son a legacy of 100,000 yuan, but it comes with conditions: the heir also receives a photograph of the father's hated enemy, along with a demand the son track down and kill him. The son is a meek, nonviolent sort, incapable of taking a life, but when his wife urges him to just take the money and forget the matter, his sense of filial duty prevents him from doing that. So when he decides to do nothing, the wife (who had only married him for his potential fortune) despises him even more. His elderly servant suggests that if the young man cannot carry out the killing himself, he should hire someone to do it, and the servant takes it upon himself to find someone. The servant finds three people who have all attempted suicide, and feel they have nothing left to live for: a disgraced army officer, a homeless vagrant, and a woman embittered by a broken romance. The young man signs a contract with the three, agreeing to given them the entire inheritance when they have eliminated his father's enemy. He wants to be involved as little as possible, so he leaves to let them work out a plan, but upon his return the next day he finds his house deserted except for the elderly servant. It turns out the three had spent the night partying with his wife, then taken all the household funds, the jilted woman and the vagrant running away together while his wife had eloped with the officer.
[When a dashing officer shows interest in her, a frustrated young wife (Ruan Lingyu) begins to think she might possibly do better.]
In despair at losing everything he has, and incapable of carrying out the act that would gain his legacy, the young man decides to end it all. He sends his servant to buy a large quantity of poison, which comes back wrapped in newspaper. When the young man opens the parcel, he comes across a newspaper item announcing that his father's hated enemy has died a natural death, and the young man is overjoyed.