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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Onion Field [Blu-ray]


(Harold Becker, 1979)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Black Marble Productions

Video: Kino Lorber



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:06:38.424

Disc Size: 23,637,866,648 bytes

Feature Size: 19,889,129,472 bytes

Video Bitrate: 17.95 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 16th, 2015



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1559 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1559 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps






• Audio Commentary by Director Harold Becker
On-camera interview with Star John Savage (10:54)
"Ring of Truth" Documentary (28:59)
Trailer (1:59)





Description: Joseph Wambaugh's The Onion Field is based on an actual 1963 case. L.A. plainclothesmen Karl Hattinger John Savage and Ian Campbell Ted Danson routinely investigate a pair of suspicious types, Greg Powell James Woods and Jimmy Smith Franklin Seales. Unexpectedly, Powell pulls a gun on the cops, then forces them into a deserted onion field, where he kills Campbell in cold blood. Hattinger manages to escape, and through his eyewitness account, Powell and Smith are arrested. But that is not that. Thanks to their knowledge and manipulation of the quicksilver legal system, Powell and Smith manage to evade prosecution for years. Meanwhile, Hattinger goes through hell on earth, tortured with guilt over the fact that he lived while Campbell died so ignominiously.



The Film:

From a real life American tragedy, this tale of thoughtless brutality, cold-blooded murder and hard won justice is a prowling, gripping, disturbing movie starring John Savage (The Deer Hunter) and James Woods (Cop) and featuring a stunning attention to detail. The Onion Field is intriguing, absorbing, powerful, well acted and riveting from beginning to end. On March 9, 1963, LAPD officers Karl Hettinger (Savage) and Ian Campbell (Ted Danson, TV's Cheers) pull over a vehicle for making an illegal U-turn and find themselves held at gunpoint by two seasoned armed robbers. Forced to give up their guns and drive to a deserted road, both officers face the horror of becoming victims in a mob-style execution... but only one is able to escape into the bleak darkness of an onion field. Stylishly directed by Harold Becker (Malice) with a screenplay Joseph Wambaugh (The New Centurions) - based on his best-selling novel. Co-starring Franklyn Seales, Ronny Cox and Christopher Lloyd.

Excerpt from Amazon located HERE


An expertly performed adaptation of Joseph Wambaugh's novel, based on the real-life case history of an LA Cop (Danson) murdered by two hijackers he tries to arrest (Woods, Seales), and the effect of the killing on his partner (Savage). It's the usual heavy Wambaugh brew: police procedure closely observed without a trace of romanticism, suggesting simply that life in the force is psychological hell. So far, so good. But that very insistence on authenticity is followed by the film to the detriment of the narrative's dramatic structure; half way through, the whole thing begins to ramble badly. Engrossingly sordid, nevertheless.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The impressive police drama The Onion Field get a Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber.  The image doesn't always look crisp but I presume this as being authentic to the 1979 release. There is some softness and clunky grain but overall looks consistent and clean with only a minor few speckles. This is single-layered with a modest bitrate but I expect this is as good as the film has ever looked on digital. There is a no depth to speak of and colors look true to the period (slightly dull). It's in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, no noise in the darker sequences and while not reaching the heights of the new format, this Blu-ray provides a decent 1080P presentation.



















Audio :

Kino Lorber use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 1559 kbps. Aside from the film's major event - there is not much more in the way of aggression or gunfire. The score is by Eumir Deodato but doesn't seem to be highly impacting although hen utilized sounds fine via the lossless. There are no subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

Again, very pleased to see many supplements from Kino Lorber - including, on this release, an audio commentary by director Harold Becker filling in details of the production and his memories of the evolution of the film, performers etc. There is also a 11-minute video interview with star John Savage discussing how he got the part etc. plus the revealing making of documentary The Onion Field entitled "Ring of Truth" running just shy of 1/2 an hour and having sound bytes from many of the principals. It's better than average. Lastly we get a trailer.



The Onion Field is an unsuspectingly emotional film. It is not a simple one-dimensional crime-drama. The impact on Det. Karl Francis Hettinger - played understatedly by John Savage - is well realized - credit to director Becker. I was pleased to see this moving drama on Blu-ray. This is a very good film and one I can see myself re-visiting it - the commentary and documentary add excellent value and we can strongly recommend this package.  

Gary Tooze

May 27th, 2015


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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Gary W. Tooze






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