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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 exotic-sounding music heard during the "native" sequences is Tuvan overtone music, sometimes called "throat music." It enables the singer to sound as if he had two or more voices. See more »


Dieter Dengler: Duane, my friend, he was gone, and from then on my motions, my progress, became mechanical. In fact, I couldn't care less if I would live or die. But then later on, there was this bear, this beautiful bear that was following me. It was circling me in fact sometimes. It was gone and I missed it. It was just like a dog, it was just like a pet. Of course I knew this bear was there, he was waiting to eat me. When I think about it, this bear meant death to me. And it is really ironic. That's the ...
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User Reviews

Documentary at its best
29 August 2001 | by (Cologne, Germany) – See all my reviews

This film is excellent! Fear of watching documentary movies? Cancel your shrink and watch little Dieter's story. You won't believe how captivating this fine piece of film making is until you have experienced it. I'm eager to say that it even out goes almost any Vietnam war movie, including Apocalypse Now. It's a real story, it's a personal story, a story about the love for flying, the dream of being a pilot and the nightmare of being shot down above enemy's territory. All is shot in a "return to..." style - at location, Herzog asking the questions, Dieter answering them in a memorable German-English accent, and with fine remembrance pointing out what happened where about 25 years before. There is this part that I told friends over and over again: bailed out from his US Navy plane, Dieter becomes a POW of the Vietcong. Blindfolded for the greater part of the days, he is being dragged through the Southeast Asian jungle for miles and miles - on bare feet. Tortured, insulted, disorientated, hungered and covered with infected wounds, they arrive in a small, friendly village to spend the night. The next morning, after walking for several hours, Dieter discovers someone stole his wedding ring from his finger. That is it. He can take no more. He starts to cry, as a result of complete exhaustion. The Vietcong men react surprised. Dieter manages to explain what happened. Immediately, the group returns to the village and starts searching for the person that stole the ring. They find the man, immediately chop of his finger and return the ring to Dieter. - The movie is full of these mind boggling and surprising situations. The immense cultural differences, the clash of East and West, the fear of the unknown (i.e. all that stands for America on the one hand, the Asian jungle and his secrets on the other) can be sensed the entire movie. Back problems? That's because you sat at the edge of your seat for two hours and didn't notice.

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