Review: Win Them All (1975)

Starring Chin Hu, Hsu Feng , Yuan-Shen Huang, Yasuaki Kurata, Tien Feng

Fight Choreography by Yasuaki Kurata

Directed by Kao Pao-Shu

There aren’t many female film directors from the old school kung fu days, but here we have Kao Pao-Shu, an actress who made her directorial debut under the Shaw Brothers banner with Lady With A Sword, and not long after broke away to direct her own films, one of them being this one, Win Them All.

In Win Them All, the story begins as Kao Ching-Ying, the Chief Guard who goes under cover to expose a fixed gambling ring is killed by Iron Fingers Fan Shun (Kurata), a killer and enforcer for the gambling thieves. Fast forward some time later finds his daughter Tien-Feng (Hsu Feng), searching for Fan Shun as she travels the country straight thievin’ with the shady Po-Po (Chin Hu), who uses her wiles to take men for all the money the have, and when feminine wiles don’t work, a kung-fu punch to the face does. They also travel with Hu Li, a small man with great acrobatic skills and resourcefulness. Tien-Feng begins to get more and more frustrated as Po-Po isn’t interested in finding Fan Shun, and would rather get more money. Thing change when Tien-Feng meets an officer (Yuan-Shen Huang) his sister Hsiao Ho, both of whom are also looking for Fan Shun, in order to arrest Fan Shun as the officer served under Kao Ching-Ying. Tien Feng fights with him, believing he’s Fan Shun because his skills are similar. Before long they team up to save their friends, all of whom are captured by Fan Shun and his organization…

Win Them All moves at a fast pace, and the fights are presented in the same manner. Po-Po is a favorite, regardless of the situation, she only looks out for herself and her money, and will do whatever it takes to make–or steal–even more money, and it’s refreshing that she never gets “hero disease”: suddenly finding a heart of gold, and Chin Hu is fantastic the whole way. Hsu Feng (A Touch of Zen) does a good job as Tien-Feng, and of course Kurata is able to play the cocky/slimy bad guy extremely well. Win them All’s plot is basic, and there are a few editing issues, but my biggest complaint comes from the story itself and a peculiar choice Kao Pau-Shu makes: In the final confrontation with Fan Shun, Tien-Feng is never given a chance to avenge her father in battle. It’s left up to the Officer, a man, to do this. It robs away so much energy from the film in exchange for a much less interesting, typical matchup.

The fights are really fast paced, and Kurata does a good job framing them, but the moves themselves are rather ho-hum, despite their speed and technicality, which is well done. The final fight between Fan Shun and the officer is good, saving the best choreography for the finale, but once again the fight would’ve been far better if the main heroine could have participated.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 5

This film had a lot of potential to showcase a female kung fu hero, but opts instead to sideline her in favor of her co-star. Yasuaki Kurata is as good as always, but even he can’t quite save this film. An action film with no backbone.