As with other national cinemas, Chinese movies have often been based on literary sources, including foreign. While I am familiar with the Holmes canon, and this film was billed as an adaptation of the short story collections, I do not recognize the plot described in the written sources. So it may have been a case of using the Holmesian mystique to sell an original story. The Holmes stories have been very popular in China over the years, with numerous translations into Chinese, and director Li Pingqian (who also acted the title role) was one of the more avid Chinese filmmakers when it came to adapting Western literary works for the Chinese screen.
[right, an advertisement for《Casebook》]
Fuermosi Zhentan An (1931) 福尔摩斯侦探案 (The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes)
alternate English title: Stories of Sherlock Holmes
Tianyi. B&W. Silent. 9 reels. Genres: Crime, Suspense. Producer: Shao Zuiweng. Direction: Li Pingqian. Screenplay: Shao Cunren, based on the short stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). Cinematography: Li Xiongxiang. Cast: Li Pingqian (Fu-er-mo-si, i.e. Sherlock Holmes), Xiao Zhengzhong (Hua-sheng, i.e. Watson), Chen Yumei (Shen Liyun), Qin Haha (chief of detectives), Wei Pengfei, Zhang Zhenduo, Yan Chengheng (detectives), Sun Min (court secretary), Ma Dongwu (chief of police), Tao Yayun (gang moll), Wei Zhengmin (gangster), Yang Tianle (Lu Binggen).
[left, Li Pingqian as the detective]
During a burglary of his mansion, wealthy businessman Yang Bofan is murdered. Concluding it happened when he accidently walked in on the intruders and sent them into panic, the police launch a citywide dragnet for suspects, concentrating on known burglars. But one person apparently uninvolved in the case has doubts: a young woman, a shopkeeper named Shen Liyun, comes to consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and asks him to look into the case. She explains that several months earlier the murdered man had begun regular visits to her shop and gradually made her acquaintance, inquiring into her background, getting to know her, and offering business and financial advice.
[right, Chen Yumei as the lady who retains Holmes's services]
Her mysterious benefactor even invested in her small business so she could expand it. But while the young woman was puzzled by the older man's attention to her, at no time did she feel his kindness was out of romantic interest. Whatever his motivation, she feels he deserves the investigation be widened to ensure justice is done. Holmes accepts the case, and in a search of the victim's mansion he uncovers clues the police had missed, which lead him to an amusement park. There he finds additional clues that lead Holmes and his friend Watson to a seedy tavern, located at No.13 Waterfront Road, an address matching that on an envelope found in the victim's mansion. The tavern is actually the secret headquarters of a criminal gang, and the two investigators have walked into a trap. They are captured and locked up in a cellar. Holmes is able to find a way out through a tunnel, so the two escape and go to the police, but when they raid the tavern, the police find it cleaned out and abandoned. Holmes and Watson return home to learn there has been an attempt on Shen Liyun's life, for no apparent reason. This strange attack on the young woman steers Holmes into exploring an alternate path of investigation. After further inquiries and serious thinking, he disguises himself as a beggar and enters a cave where many beggars live. After talking to various beggars, he uncovers another clue in one's possession, a pearl stolen during the robbery. When Holmes finds out how the beggar obtained it, he leads the police back to the mansion. There, Holmes explains how the clues led him to this resolution of the mystery: the murder was the real objective and the robbery was actually a diversionary action to cover it up. Also, the mysterious attack on Shen Liyun was directly related to the crime. The villain behind the plot was Yang Bofan's younger brother Yang Jifan, who hired the gang to commit the robbery and murder. Jifan's motive: his elder brother had learned the young shopkeeper was his long-lost daughter from an early love affair, and after locating his only child and mentoring her in business, Yang Bofan was planning to leave his own business and his entire fortune to her instead of Jifan.