It’s a lot like an American western set in Poland in 1945!

This review is for an older and obscure film.  However, it IS worth seeing and is now out on DVD from Polart.  In the States, you can find the film on Netflix as well as and I strongly recommend you give it a chance.

Prawo i piesc (also known as The Law and the Fist) is a very fascinating film that apparently hasn’t been seen by many folks–at least outside of Poland.  I say it apparently hasn’t been seen because there are no reviews for it on IMDb even though it is a heck of a good film—and it’s too good not to be seen.

When the film begins, WWII is just about over and the Germans have left Poland.  So now it’s up to people to try to get back to normalcy–to find jobs, rebuild the towns and feed themselves.  Andrzej Kennig (Gustaw Holoubeck) is one of these people–displaced and tired from being in a concentration camp following his involvement in the bloody Warsaw uprising in 1944.  He is given a job by the local authorities–or, at least he THINKS these are folks constituting the local government.  The job is to go into the surrounding towns and secure them.  However, once in one of these towns, he slowly starts to realize that their leader, the new mayor, is just a thief who plans on looting everything he can from this nearly vacant town.  When Andrzej sees that this means not only taking people’s possessions but art treasures from a museum, he realizes he cannot let this happen.  He attempts to covertly convince a few of the other workers to abandon their dirty jobs.  He also tries to get a message out to the nearby police to get their as soon as possible.  However, none of this works out and eventually he needs to either knuckle under and work with these opportunists or fight them.  But what good is one man against six?

In many, many ways, despite being set in 1945, it’s very much like an American western.  The music and plot are a lot like “High Noon” and the idea of one lone man standing for right against a gang is certainly a very familiar one in westerns.  Fortunately, the film works very well because it breathes new life into a familiar formula.  Also, Gustaw Holoubeck does a very nice job playing a very weary but ultimately decent man.  It’s also taut, well-crafted yet simple.

By the way, while the film’s strong socialist message might have fit in well with the communist dominated Polish film industry of 1964, it certainly is still very universal in its appeal and can be appreciated by anyone who wants a taut, well-crafted film.  Also in the translation there are a couple words most viewers won’t understand and should have been translated better.  A pedagogue is a teacher and a plenipotentiary is a person who is in charge of a municipality or state.  Both of these are certainly college (or grad school) level words that might confuse many.

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer