6.9/10
4,172
44 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
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

This movie was released six years after the novel was published. Author Joseph Wambaugh wrote the screenplay, as he would do the next year for The Black Marble (1980). "The Onion Field" was Wambaugh's third book. See more »

Goofs

Just before Powell's arrest on March 9, 1963, he is shown driving on a road marked with "Botts Dots". The lane markers were not used statewide until September 1966. See more »

Quotes

Gregory Ulas Powell: We told you we were going to let you go... but have you ever heard of the little Lindbergh Law?
Det. Ian Campbell: Yes.
[Powell shoots him]
See more »

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User Reviews

True Story of Cops, Robbers and the justice system.
18 September 2000 | by yenloSee all my reviews

From the Joseph Wambaugh book of the same name comes a frighteningly true story of two police officers and two robbers whose career paths in life fatally cross one night in 1963 in a bizarre execution murder in Bakersfield Ca and the justice systems handling of it all. The film can't match the book but does hold up well. The casting of the various characters is amazing as they resemble in great detail the actual people they are portraying. The film airs on Television from time to time but be sure if you see it it's on a channel that will not edit it in the slightest. To be on the safe side rent it. James Woods and Franklyn Seales stand out in their performances.


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