[Originally published in Movietone News 64-65, March 1980]
Truth may be stranger than fiction, but it is almost always less interesting. The challenge facing Wambaugh in bringing his novelized â€œtrue storyâ€ to the screen was to preserve the interest and intensity that the actual events held for those who participated in themâ€”to try to make the headline story as immediate for the viewer as for the subject. All of Wambaughâ€™s police bestsellers are based on fact to one extent or another; and the story goes that Wambaugh, fed up with the inadequacy of the film versions of his other books (The New Centurions, The Blue Knight, The Choirboys), decided to appoint his own producer and director, and write his own screenplay the way he wanted it done. Though the cops come off as saintly and the criminal element as irredeemableâ€”unlike the more ambiguous characterization of the earlier Wambaugh-based filmsâ€”The Onion Field is a qualified success, and probably actually is the best Wambaugh movie yet.