The Onion Field (film)

The Onion Field (Film)

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The Onion Field (film)

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The Onion Field is a 1979 American drama film directed by Harold Becker. The screenplay by Joseph Wambaugh is based on his 1973 true crime novel of the same title. The Onion Field is rated R by the MPAA.


The film focuses on an actual 1963 event in which Los Angeles Police Department detectives Karl Hettinger and Ian Campbell were kidnapped by charismatic psychopath Greg Powell and weak, gullible Jimmy Smith and taken to an onion field near Bakersfield, where Campbell was shot and killed and Hettinger managed to escape.

Hettinger's eyewitness account leads to the arrest of the two thugs, who are tried and convicted of first-degree murder. While they languish on death row, Powell and Smith learn how to exploit the legal system, and after a series of appeals their sentences are reduced to life imprisonment following a court decision abolishing executions in California. Meanwhile, Hettinger's physical condition and emotional state slowly deteriorate as his failure to act more aggressively on the night of the incident is questioned by those in authority and his fellow officers. Racked with guilt and remorse, he experiences nightmares, impotence, weight and height loss, kleptomania, and thoughts of suicide.


The film was shot on location in Valencia, Los Angeles, Maricopa, and Taft in California. The Los Angeles County Superior Court was used to film the movie. The jury panel was taken to an onion field...
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