6.8/10
4,328
44 user 23 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)
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 ... Karl Hettinger
James Woods ... Gregory Powell
Franklyn Seales ... Jimmy Smith
Ted Danson ... Ian Campbell
Ronny Cox ... Pierce Brooks
David Huffman ... District Attorney 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 ... 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:

A True American Tragedy Captured on Film! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The bagpipe tune Detective Campbell is playing in the cells is the Piobaireachd (classical lament) Cha till MacCruimein (MacCrimmon shall never return). According to (unverifiable) legend, it was composed circa 1745 by the personal piper to the Chief of the Clan MacLeod, Donald Ban MacCrimmon, who had a premonition of his own death in battle. In January of the next year, during the Second Jacobite Rebellion, there was a minor skirmish known as the Rout of Moy, where the only man killed was a piper with the MacLeods, who were serving with the Hanoverian (government) forces. See more »

Goofs

When Jimmy is seen watching television at Greg's house he is watching "General Hospital". This scene takes place in early March 1963 while "General Hospital" debuted April 1, 1963. See more »

Quotes

Dist. Atty. Phil Halpin: Campbell's forgotten. He may as well never have lived. Hettinger's a ghost. Only the legal process has meaning. I've got to get away. You know what I was thinking? I was thinking that if it were in my power, I'd release Powell and Smith, drop all the charges. Let 'em walk. If only I could send some lawyers and judges to the gas chamber.
See more »

User Reviews

A True Cop Story
9 June 1999 | by EMHMARK8See all my reviews

Joe Wambaugh penned this script and told the story of one of the most shocking cases in Los Angeles Police history. Wambaugh was the only man qualified to tell this story since he came out of the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department.

The story was not just a typical cop story where the cops always win. Rather, it was a story of the tragedy of a lost life, the broken life of another, and the tragic lives of two pathetic, small time killers who would spend the majority of their lives in and out of prison. It was this case that changed Los Angeles police policy from that time on.

The cast was little known at that time. Who would have thought Ted Dansen would go on to TV fame? Who would have thought James Woods would become a big screen actor? The rest of the cast, including John Savage and the late Franklyn Seales would remain a part of the landscape and gain their own fame.

As for Wambaugh, he is one of my favorite writers because of all of the great cop projects he would do: "The Blue Knights," "Police Story" and others.

Some days I really wish for dramas like those especially in these days of mistrust of cops...hey, it's a tough job laying down your life every day of your life. A movie like this might open the eyes of many and change some attitudes.


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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

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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