6.8/10
4,208
43 user 21 critic

The Onion Field (1979)

An LA police officer is murdered in the onion fields outside of Bakersfield. However, legal loopholes could keep his kidnappers from receiving justice, and his partner is haunted by overwhelming survivor's guilt.

Director:

Harold Becker

Writers:

Joseph Wambaugh (book), Joseph Wambaugh (screenplay)

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Savage ... Det. Karl Francis Hettinger
James Woods ... Gregory Ulas Powell
Franklyn Seales ... Jimmy Lee 'Youngblood' Smith
Ted Danson ... Det. Ian James Campbell
Ronny Cox ... Det. Sgt. Pierce R. Brooks
David Huffman ... Dist. Atty. Phil Halpin
Christopher Lloyd ... Jailhouse Lawyer
Dianne Hull ... Helen Hettinger (as Diane Hull)
Priscilla Pointer ... Chrissie Campbell
Beege Barkette ... Greg's Woman (as Beege Barkett)
Richard Herd ... Beat Cop
Le Tari ... Emmanuel McFadden
Richard Venture Richard Venture ... Det. Glenn Bates
Lee Weaver ... Billy
Pat Corley ... Jimmy's Lawyer #2
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Storyline

Gregory Ulas Powell is a disturbed ex-con who recruits Jimmy Lee "Youngblood" Smith, a petty thief, as his partner in crime. Powell panics one night when the two of them are pulled over by a pair of cops for broken brake lights. Powell decides to kidnap the cops, and Smith, as always, reluctantly goes along with Powell's crazy scheme. The group drives out to a deserted onion field in Bakersfield, California, and one officer is shot while the other escapes. The remainder of the film explores the nature of the American justice system, as well as the devastating psychological effects of this event, and the trial on the surviving officer. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

What Happened In The Onion Field Is True. But The Real Crime Is What Happened After. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 February 1980 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Onion Field See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$9,890,597

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$9,890,597
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The abduction of officers Hettinger and Campbell was filmed at the exact location at Carlos and Gower, where the real crime occurred in March 1963. Writer Joseph Wambaugh said, "I made sure that there were cops who were on duty the night Hettinger and Campbell were kidnapped, to come around and take a look at how we were depicting it." See more »

Goofs

In the beginning of the film (which takes place in 1963), as the camera pans down the street, past houses, a 1965 Chevy Impala is seen parked in one of the driveways. See more »

Quotes

Det. Sgt. Pierce R. Brooks: Has your conscience ever bothered you? Like feeling - guilty?
Jimmy Smith: Mr. Brooks... I believe... I think that is something that rich white guys dreamed up to keep guys like me down. I honestly don't believe there is such a thing... such a feeling. Guilty? That's just something the Man says in court when your luck runs out.
See more »

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User Reviews

A disappointment
29 September 1999 | by NedwardSee all my reviews

Watching the Onion Field is like being in the trial it portrays. Overlong, boring and ultimately unsatisfying the film drags on until its uninteresting ending which resolves nothing and leaves you wishing you hadn't wasted the last two hours of your life. The opening of the film has some promise. The characters seem to have some potential but after the plotless first half hour you begin to care less and less. Then, after the first 45 minutes almost an entirely new cast of characters is introduced badly and for the rest of the film we really have no reason to care about them. The characters who were introduced early on suddenly disappear into the background and resurface occasionally in scenes that have little or no impact. The film is filled with unnecessary scenes which neither advance the plot or the characters and simply make the film drag moreso. The only character we are really introduced to and care about is Ted Danson and when he's gone the rest of the characters are strangers to us. Overall the film doesn't go anywhere and in the end you know little of what happened after the shooting and in the end you really don't care.


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