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Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Biography, Drama | 2 October 1998 (USA)
German-American Dieter Dengler discusses his service as an American naval pilot in the Vietnam War. Dengler also revisits the sites of his capture and eventual escape from the hands of the Vietcong, recreating many events for the camera.




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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 5 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Dieter Dengler ...
Himself / Narrator (voice)
Eugene Deatrick ...


In 1966, Dieter Dengler was shot down over Laos, captured, and, down to 85 pounds, escaped. Barefoot, surviving monsoons, leeches, and machete-wielding villagers, he was rescued. Now, near 60, living on Mt. Tamalpais, Dengler tells his story: a German lad surviving Allied bombings in World War II, postwar poverty, apprenticed to a smith, beaten regularly. At 18, he emigrates and peels potatoes in the U.S. Air Force. He leaves for California and college, then enlistment in the Navy to learn to fly. A quiet man of sorrows tells his story: war, capture, harrowing conditions, escape, and miraculous rescue. Where did he find the strength; how does he now live with his memories? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Not Rated | See all certifications »



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Release Date:

2 October 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Flucht aus Laos  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film begins with this quote: "And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it, and shall desire to die and death shall flee from them. - Revelation 9:6". See more »


Narrator: Dieter took an early retirement from the armed forces and became a civilian test pilot. He survived four more crashes and flies to this day. Death did not want him.
See more »


Version of Hell Ride: Flucht aus Laos (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

A Complete Work
7 April 2006 | by (42nd Street Memories) – See all my reviews

I had the opportunity to see this last evening at a local film festival. Herzog introduced the film and did an hour long Q&A afterward.

This is a brilliantly done "documentary"; Herzog explained afterward that he does not consider his films to be true documentary since facts sometimes camouflage the truth. Instead he scripts some scenes and ad-libs some to introduce a new element that may have been missed if he followed the original story outline.

Little Dieter, unlike Timothy Treadwell, is a real person that you fall in love with; you cheer for him, you feel the anguish that he feels. You admire the sense of humor and joy for life that he exhibited here 30 years after he was taken into captivity by the Viet Cong. You are disappointed to hear afterward that Dieter passed on not too long ago.

As in most Herzog films, the imagery is breathtakingly beautiful with a wonderful choice of background music. Especially a scene of battle taken from archives of the Viet Nam war but fitting the story line of Dieter.

The core of the film has Dieter return to the hellish jungle where he was a POW and he re-enacts his journey with some locals. Harrowing for us to watch, I can't imagine what he felt as he was bound again.

One of the better films to depict and discuss the nightmare of the Viet Nam war. It should serve as a lesson to us all.

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