The Onion Field (1979)

R   |    |  Crime, Drama


The Onion Field (1979) Poster

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.

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6.9/10
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  • James Woods and Franklyn Seales in The Onion Field (1979)
  • Ted Danson and John Savage in The Onion Field (1979)
  • James Woods in The Onion Field (1979)
  • Ted Danson and John Savage in The Onion Field (1979)
  • James Woods and Franklyn Seales in The Onion Field (1979)
  • John Savage in The Onion Field (1979)

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Cast & Crew

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Director:

Harold Becker

Writers:

Joseph Wambaugh (book), Joseph Wambaugh (screenplay)

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16 January 2004 | dtucker86
Wambaughs best work
The Onion Field was a story that needed to be told. This is a story that will really make you angry, angry at a legal system that lets vicious criminals off the hook and brutalizes their victims. I was outraged at the horrible crime committed against Officers Ian Campbell and Karl Heninger. They were both abducted and taken to an onion field and Campbell was shot and killed while Heninger managed to get away. As cruel as it may sound, I think Heninger would have been better off if they had killed him as well. Campbell's death was quick, Heninger suffered a living death. He was ostracized by his fellow police officers as a coward and they actually made him tell his story to young officers as an example of what not to do in a crisis situation. I was so angry watching this at how this poor man was treated. I thought policemen were supposed to stand by each other. Heninger was so traumatized by this that he became a kleptomaniac and was forced to resign from the department. What was even more obscene was that the trial of the two killers became the longest most drawn out affair in legal history, it literally dragged on for years with Heninger being forced to testify again and again. Gregory Powell (the triggerman) was represented by a lawyer named Irving Kanarek (who would later represent Charles Manson). Kanarek was legendary in Los Angeles courts for being a professional "obstructionist", a lawyer who dragged out proceedings by objections and legal "foot dragging". Kanarek spent a year and a half on pre trial motions before his own client fired him in disgust. This film is a searing indictment of a legal system that protects the deadly spider and ignores the innocent fly. James Woods was absolutely chilling as this psychopathic killer. He was a young actor just getting started at the time and what a way to debut! The late Gene Siskel said that he was almost like Frankenstein's monster. Yes The Onion Field is not a pleasant story, but it is one that needs to be told. There is one tragic footnote that I would like to add involving Karl Heninger. He died in 1994 of a liver disease. I wrote a letter to Joseph Wambaugh and he told me this. He said Heninger was an alcoholic and he never ever escaped the horror of what happened that night. May he rest in peace.

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