Investigating the Mystery Behind the Burning Skier Footage From the ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ Opening

Fascinated with the origins of clips used in the title sequence from the classic 2000s television show Malcolm in the Middle, Kid Leaves Stoop noticed one such clip had no apparent source information behind it. Thus began the investigation into the mysterious skier who leaped off a mountain while on fire.

Malcolm in the Middle’s opening credits had a lost media mystery that took 21 years to find. Who was that mysterious burning skier?

Kid documents his search for the burning skier, noting that he finally found what he thought to be the original clip from a show called Thrill Seekers, which ran from 1973 through 1974. After spending a bit of time on eBay, Kid finally got his hands on the show DVD, which featured the burning skier Glenn Wurtele.

The DVD included a gag reel, which included a clip of host Chuck Connors offering his true opinion of the stunt.

We received a call from our friend and world-renowned ski photographer Warren Miller. He told us about Glenn Wertell who was going to set himself on fire, a stupid bastard, and then ski off a cliff – more stupidity.

This was only half the story, however. As it turns out, the truly original footage comes from a film directed by Warren Miller entitled The Color of Skiing who licensed it to the show.

Burning Skier

Here’s the title sequence from Malcolm in the Middle. The burning skier can be found at 16 seconds in.

Here’s footage as shown on Thrill Seekers.

Glenn Wurtele’s segment on the 1973-1974 television show, Thrill Seekers, where he sets himself on fire and jumps off a cliff on skis.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.