: : : The Onion Field


One night in 1963, two plainclothes LAPD officers were abducted by armed small-time criminals after a routine traffic stop, then driven to a remote area where one was brutally executed. The other officer managed to escape and the perpetrators were captured and brought to trial. Despite overwhelming evidence, the slayers managed to drag the justice process on for years through appeals and delaying tactics, one of them making use of the prison law library to become a "jailhouse lawyer." Taken from the Joseph Wambaugh book, The Onion Field is a true story about a case that changed LAPD policies forever. More than a simple police procedural, though, the film is a character study that follows the aftermath of the murder for all involved. John Savage, as the surviving officer, is called on over and over to reenact the event in court, chided by his superiors and eventually fired from the force, with redemption a long way off. He does a great job in a harrowing role as frustration, guilt, and depression cause his life and career to disintegrate over time. There are impressive early performances by Ted Danson and James Woods (setting the tone for countless raw-nerve, psycho-lowlife roles that Woods would take on in the future). The compelling script, written by ex-cop Wambaugh (with no studio interference), is a reminder of why he's one of novelist James Ellroy's favorite writers. It's a story of tragedy and hope, dignity and pain, with a potent emotional payoff. --Jerry Renshaw

DVD Features

  • Color
  • Closed-captioned
  • Widescreen

VHS Features

<li type="square"> Closed-captioned
<li type="square"> Color
<li type="square"> HiFi Sound
<li type="square"> Original recording reissued
<li type="square"> NTSC
<li type="square"> Language: English


John SavageDet. Karl Francis Hettinger
James WoodsGregory Ulas Powell
Ted DansonDet. Ian James Campbell
Ronny CoxDet. Sgt. Pierce R. Brooks
Christopher LloydJailhouse Lawyer
Dianne HullHelen Hettinger
Priscilla PointerChrissie Campbell
Lee WeaverBilly
K CallanMrs. Powell
Michael PatakiDist. Atty. Dino Fulgoni
John de LancieLAPD Lieutnant #2

  • Genre: Drama Movies
  • Director: Harold Becker
  • Producer: MGM/UA
  • Length: 126 min
  • Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
  • Theatrical Release
    North AmericaJan 1, 1979
  • Ratings
    North AmericaR
  • DVD Release
    North AmericaSep 17, 2002
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