Wendy’s SuperBar

Of all the things Wendy’s tried through the years, the Superbar was the idea that I liked the most, and is very possibly the fast food item/gimmick that I miss more than all the others.  When it first debuted at Wendy’s, my whole family was eager to try it. As you may remember, my dad would be out of town most of the week, and when he would come home on Friday, he would take the family out to eat. Once we tried the SuperBar, we were hooked, and it became our Friday night destination more weeks than not for at least the first year it was available.

The SuperBar was a set of three food bars that expanded Wendy’s dine-in options several times over and was a big hit with a large part of their customer base.  The first of the three bars was a salad bar that featured what you see at most salad bars. There was lettuce, tomato, carrots, cucumbers, and various dressings. The salad bar was also where the dessert options could be found. The dessert options weren’t mind-blowing by any means, but for an eleven-year-old like myself at the time, it served its purpose. At least at our local Wendy’s, there was vanilla pudding and chocolate pudding, and on occasion, there would be Ambrosia. I guess you could count the mixed fruit as a dessert as well, but no self-respecting kid would be caught picking that over the pudding options.

The next bar was the Mexican Fiesta bar, which was my personal favorite section of the whole thing. There were all the things you needed to make tacos and burritos like chili, seasoned beef, salsa, taco sauce, shredded cheese, melted nacho cheese, taco shells, and soft tortillas.  Of all the bars, this was the one I would make the most trips to on every visit.

The third bar was the Pasta Bar which featured spaghetti noodles, fettuccine noodles, spaghetti sauce, and alfredo sauce as the pasta quotient of the bar. But the best part of this bar was the garlic bread which was made by flattening and grilling their hamburger buns with garlic salt and butter.  It was delicious, and on every trip out to Wendy’s to indulge in the SuperBar, I would eat five or six pieces of this bread.

While the SuperBar as it was presented was just fine, there was a little something else that could be done with it. My dad would order a baked potato, and when you ordered a potato, you could take it to the SuperBar to top it. I don’t remember if that was an extra cost or not though. But my dad would go to the Mexican Fiesta bar and load his potato with the chili and melted nacho cheese. I saw him do this a couple of times and decided to try it myself. After I had topped my potato, I sat down and started to devour it just like my old man…and it was delicious! But he stopped me after a couple of bites and told me that I was doing it wrong. I was perplexed at the age of 11 years old and he could see that, so he enlightened me. He explained that to get the most out of the experience, you first consume just the chili and cheese from the potato, and then you go back and refill the potato with more chili and cheese. Then you consume the whole thing as I was previously doing.

The SuperBar was our go-to while they had it in their stores.  A lot of those Friday or Saturday nights that Dad would take us out were spent eating at Wendy’s while we talked and laughed as a family before we would hit the department stores in town where Mom would do her shopping for the week.  

The SuperBar is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Wendy’s, and it’s a shame they had to get rid of it. As I’ve read in years since, the bar was a loss leader for the stores, and it provided so much extra work for the staff to keep it neat and clean. I understand why it died off as a concept, but that doesn’t mean I miss it any less.

Before I go, here is a video of a news report detailing the Wendy’s SuperBar from around the time of its launch.

Re-watch: Independence Day (1996)

Back in the summer of 1996, I was working full-time at the grocery store that I would go on to work at for a decade. I had just graduated high school and was fortunate to be in the position of having friends from school and friends from work to hang out and do stuff with.

When the ads for Independence Day started dropping, several of those friends and I were getting excited to see this latest summer blockbuster. The little two-screen theater in the town where I worked was a weekly stop for us as we took in at least one movie every week. When Independence Day weekend rolled around, there was no question as to what movie we were going to be watching.

Independence Day is the story of an alien race coming to Earth to take it over for its resources. After a first strike that wipes a lot of major world cities off the map, the US stages a counter attack that is ineffective. Fortunately, the world has an ace up it’s leave in genius Jeff Goldblum. He figures out a way to weaken the aliens, and a rag-tag group of former combat pilots led by the President show the way to bring down the hostile invaders, and the world lives to see another day. One of the hooks of the movie is that the events take place across July 2, 3, and 4 in the movie, leading to the United States declaring it’s freedom on the 4th of July once again.

Independence Day was the major summer blockbuster of 1996, and all of the hyp leading up to it had me very excited to see it. Watching it in the theater there was an electric mood as the packed house loved every minute of the spectacle.

It was also a breakout performance for Will Smith. Up until this point, he had starred in the movie Bad Boys and was still a sensation on the hit TV show Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but this was his coming out party as a major leading man in Hollywood.

With it’s massive scope, incredible effects, and all-star cast, Independence Day became one of the biggest movies of the ’90s, and one I still go back and watch every Independence Day weekend.

4.0 out of 5.0 stars 

What If Sting Slammed Yokuzuna in 1993 Instead of Lex Luger?

I was always a fan of the Marvel Comics series What If?, where they would take classic stories, give them a twist, and give us readers a look at what might have been. I’m doing the same thing here with a classic moment in wrestling history.

Let me set the stage for you. In 1993, Yokuzuna was the WWF champion and portrayed as an evil Japanese bad guy. He was dominating the competition, and at over 500 lbs. he was a massive wrestler. In celebration of Independence Day, the WWF brought Yokuzuna to the U.S.S. Intrepid that was harboured in New York City for a body slam challenge. They invited several celebrities to come and try slamming the big man, as well as several good guys from the WWF. No one was able to get Yokozuna off his feet and slam him.

Just when it looked as if no one could pull it off and the challenge was over, a helicopter came into sight and landed on the deck of the intrepid. Off stepped Lex Luger, who up until this very moment was a bad guy in the WWF, but had a history of being a very popular good guy. He came off the helicopter decked out in an American flag pattern shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots. He climbed into the ring, gave Yokozuna a shot and then lifted him into the air and slammed him to become the WWF’s #1 good guy and all-American hero.

What followed that event was a summer tour on a bus to drum up support for his title match against Yokozuna at that year’s Summerslam event. The push didn’t go as anticipated, and Luger never really captured the imagination of fans across the country the way the WWF was hoping, and the whole thing fizzled out when he didn’t win the title at the end of the summer.

But let me give you an alternate version of events that I think might have went a little better for everyone involved…

By 1993, Sting was solidly the face of World Championship Wrestling, the WWF’s chief rival. While he had a contract with WCW, it was not impossible to get out of them at the time, and if the WWF had shelled out a buyout payment, they could have probably gotten Sting’s services for their company. Imagine if when the helicopter landed, instead of Luger getting off, it was Sting wearing his American flag ring coat and American flag face paint like he wore at Great American Bash ’90. It would have been patriotic as hell.

The shock of the crowd in attendance would have been off the chart as they would have just watched WWF alumni and celebrities alike try and fail to slam Yokozuna. Then there would come the most popular wrestler from another company, give one of the passionate promos that Sting was known for, and then be the one to give Yokozuna the slam for all of America.

Sting would have been on a wave of popularity, unlike anything he had seen up to this point. If he had gotten the bus tour, he likely would have gotten over much better with the people all around the country and probably would have been popular enough to get the title win over the evil sumo wrestler at the end of the summer.

Who knows what the future would hold from that point forward, but certainly a feud with former best friend and still bad guy Lex Luger would have been very likely. It may have even led to a showdown at Wrestlemania the following March.

We’ll never know, but I like to sit around and wonder, What If?

This Nostalgic Life Newsletter Issue #6

The latest issue of This Nostalgic Life newsletter is now out and available to view. If you don’t subscribe, you can still view the newsletter by clicking on the image below.

In this latest issue, I tell the tale of the non-traditional summer vacation we took for several years in the ’80s. We would go on a “wagon train” and travel around our local area in a caravan of wagons and camp out every night for almost two weeks.

Also in this issue, my co-collaborator Eric debuts a new ongoing weekly feature where he looks back at the music charts of 1983 and 1990. He reviews the current week’s timeframe but in those years. It’s a fascinating look and listen at the music that made us.

And as always, we’ve included a batch of recommended reading links pointing the way to some of the best and most fun nostalgia and retro-related content from around the web.

If you’ve not signed up for the newsletter yet, I urge you to consider it. We publish the latest issue every Wednesday and it’s delivered straight to your email inbox so you never have to go searching for it. It’s absolutely free, it’s ad-free, there’s no spam, and you can always cancel at anytime. Every issue features a main feature, the weekly recommended reading links, the new ongoing We Got the Beat section, and a smaller feature that rotates between Do You Remember, Nostalgia Nuggets, and other mini-features. Just click on the image below to be taken to this week’s issue where you can subscribe if you’d like.

Watermelons Aren’t As Good As they Used to Be

After a long hot week at work, my body has been craving fresh fruit. So I got up and went to the local grocery store this morning to pick up some various fruits to satisfy my cravings.

The first thing that greeted me in the produce section was a display of fresh-cut watermelon. All of it had a nice deep red color and looked like it would be full of flavor, so I picked up a quarter of one to enjoy this afternoon along with some other tasty choices.

But once I chunked it up and started to eat it, I quickly realized that looks had been deceiving. While it looked really ripe, it had a mostly bland taste and was devoid of the sweetness of the watermelons of years ago. This seems to be a trend over the last decade or two, and I guess it’s because most watermelons you can get these days are the hybrid ones, and the ones engineered to be seedless. With each of these iterations, the watermelon loses something.

I can remember as a kid getting a watermelon was a big deal. They were super sweet and everyone wanted a piece. I can remember numerous times, someone in my mom’s family would pick one up, and then call the rest of the family to meet at the grandparents and have some. There were many Sunday afternoons that my grandparent’s front porch would be full of my aunts and uncles, and their front yard was full of us grandkids all chowing down on juicy watermelon and spitting seeds everywhere.

And as you’ll read later this week in the latest issue of the This Nostalgic Life newsletter, the nightly watermelon races were a big part of wagon train every year. I can’t imagine anyone running as hard as they can to try and win one of today’s watermelons. That really speaks to the loss of sweetness through the years.

Or maybe all of this equates to me finally turning into an old fogey who just complains about how things aren’t as good as they used to be. Maybe I’m just one step away from yelling at kids to get off my lawn.

This Nostalgic Life Newsletter Issue #5

This week’s issue has a tremendously fun tale of Eric’s music piracy ways back when he was in school, as well as me being nostalgic for my favorite meal of the day. This issue is also filled a pile of my traditional recommended reading links pointing you in the direction of some really fun nostalgic and retro content around the web.

Click on the image above to check out the latest issue and if you like, go ahead and subscribe. It’s free, and each issue is delivered straight to your inbox every Wednesday morning.

Re-watch: The Stoned Age (1994)

Back around 1995, I picked up The Stoned Age at my local video store and gave it a watch late one night. I remember liking it at the young age of 17, and thinking it was a “cool” movie. I saw that it was streaming on Tubi and decided to watch it again for old-time’s sake. 

The Stoned Age is a movie with a very simple premise. It details one night in the life of two young men in the late ’70s whose world revolves around three things: getting drunk, getting stoned, and looking for “chicks”. They hear about two lovely and lonely young ladies who are looking to party, so they go to get in on the action. Various issues arise that the young men must overcome in hopes of achieving their goal of hooking up with these young ladies. We meet a cast of characters along the way, none of which are very memorable. In the end, do they succeed? Do they take any important life lessons from this night? Will they survive the wrath of an angry father? You’ll have to watch for yourself to find out.

Please don’t take that last sentence as a challenge or an endorsement to watch this movie. It’s not good. I’m not really surprised that I dug it when I was 17, but now 28 years later, I could hardly slog through it. I stopped it at three different points and only kept going back to it so I wouldn’t feel guilty about writing a review of it without watching it all. 

It feels like someone was trying to duplicate the success of Dazed and Confused from a year prior, but didn’t have the cast or story to even come close to pulling it off. The fact that both movies are set in the ’70s and weed plays a large part are really the only two things they really have in common. 

I hate to be entirely negative, so I’ll give them props for a decent soundtrack. Otherwise, this is one I can’t encourage you to watch whether you’ve never seen it before or like me, haven’t seen it in a very long time. It hasn’t aged well at all. Or maybe I haven’t. Either way, The Stoned Age is a hard pass.

1/2 a star.

BK Dinner Baskets of the ’90s

I want to take a few minutes and talk about one of my all-time favorite fast food promotions…Burger King’s Dinner Service and Dinner Baskets from the ’90s.

In late 1992 and early 1993, Burger King attempted something new and radical. They decided to try and get families in the door for dinner by offering “table service”. Between the hours of 4 pm and 8 pm, they had a special menu featuring what they called dinner baskets. You had several options for what you could have in your dinner basket, and those options included:

  • Fried boneless chicken breast
  • Fried shrimp
  • Steak Sandwich
  • Whopper
  • Meatloaf sandwich that was available in select areas

You also had choices for your sides too as you could pick from fries or a baked potato, and choose either a salad or coleslaw.

In addition to the baskets, one of the key features was that you would order your food at the counter like normal, but instead of getting your food then and there, they would give you a number and you would head off to find a table. When your baskets were prepared, they’d bring your food out. Oh, and they gave you a tray of popcorn to enjoy as an appetizer while you waited for your dinner baskets to arrive.

It seems like a stretch to expect a huge influx of customers to come rushing in for this promotion, and it must have been because I don’t remember this promotion lasting very long at all. I do however remember one individual being super hyped for it for some reason…me. As I sit here and type this, I can’t tell you why I was so excited about this concept, but I was all about wanting to experience it. I managed to convince my folks to try it out just one time. I ordered the Whopper basket with fries and cole slaw. I have no memory of what my folks ordered, but they must not have been impressed with it all since we never went back for it a second time. Maybe it was the popcorn that lured me in. I don’t know but regardless, the whole thing obviously left a lasting impression on me since I remember it fondly enough to still recall what my dinner basket consisted of.

I just wanted to throw this memory out there and see who else remembers it.

The Summer of Thunder at Hardee’s

Days of Thunder hit theaters in 1990, and I was all in on it. All in except for actually going to see the movie itself in the theater. Back then, it was rare to convince my folks to go to a theater to catch a movie, so I usually had to live vicariously through whatever promotional tie-in merchandise was available when new movies came out. That task was made more difficult by the fact that a lot of my friends at school were getting to go to the movies on a regular basis to see whatever the hot new thing was, and I just had to stand around and listen to them talk about how awesome it was, and Days of Thunder sure sounded exciting.

Sure I had seen the trailers for it during television commercial breaks, and I have some faint memories of reading about it in a magazine. Maybe something like an issue of Cinescape, or maybe there was a special one-shot magazine released for it or something. I don’t know, but either way, I knew what the movie was even before my friends were describing all the details to me.

But anyway, Hardee’s rolled out these Thunder Racer cars, and I really wanted them. First, they were tied to a hot new movie that I wanted to see. Second, they were 1/64 scale die-cast cars and I was already a lover of both Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars and had quite the growing collection. And third, it was an additional toy I could snag on the weekend. I say additional because I would spend my weekly allowance on a toy while shopping on the weekend, but this gave me an opportunity to get a freebie.

You could get a Thunder Racer car for just $0.99 with any purchase…not just a kid’s meal. But it might as well have been offered with the kid’s meal as far as I was concerned because that was probably what I was ordering then, and there was no way I was leaving Hardee’s without a Thunder Racer car!

But you couldn’t just get them all on one visit, as a different one was available each week as you can see in the earlier photo. This meant that four separate trips had to be made to Hardee’s to get them all. A feat that I was unfortunately unable to pull off. I managed to get the first three…the City Chevrolet, the Superflow car, and the Hardee’s car but missed out on the Mello Yello one for some reason. Luckily for me, they were quickly released by Racing Champions as well and I was able to get the Mello Yello car that way. I never end up with Rowdy Burns’ Exxon car though.

I’m not sure what, if anything, was actually included in the Funmeal Pack meal promotion that was out at the time. I know the box featured Days of Thunder artwork, but I distinctly remember having to purchase the cars separately.

As I continued to get the various ones I had, they began to dominate play time in my room. At the time I had a few other Racing Champions cars as well, so NASCAR races were taking place on a regular basis that summer. Most of those races were won by the green and yellow City Chevrolet, but every now and then, that beautiful orange Hardee’s with Russ Wheeler at the wheel snuck out a win.

But now let’s talk just a bit about the Days of Thunder cups you could also get from Hardee’s. My brother was a big fan of special cups in general, but Hardee’s cups in particular. He has a full set of those Moose cups at one time, and numerous others as well. At this point in time, he had no trouble attaining whatever special merchandise like this he wanted as he had a job and was driving.

While I never personally cared for most cups like these, the Days of Thunder cups were ones I really wanted. I guess I just wanted to show my support for a movie that I hadn’t seen for some reason. Or I just thought they were really cool looking. Or both.

The artwork on the cups is great, and the colors really pop. I like how the Days of Thunder title logo appears on the cup in the same color as the car featured on each one. You can’t see it in the photo above, but on the backs of the cups were stats on the drivers of the cars. That could be perceived as a little lazy though since Cole Trickle drove three of the cars featured, and the stats could all be the same.

I can’t begin to calculate how much money my mom had to spend at Hardee’s on me that summer. But the food had to be bought to purchase the cars. They were $0.99 each. And you had to buy a 32oz drink to get a cup. Well, now that I think about it, I guess you could purchase a 32oz drink and get the cup, and make that the purchase that qualified you to buy a Thunder Racer car. Maybe she didn’t spend all that much after all.

Regardless of how much was spent, it was all worth it in my eyes because I can remember that summer better than most, and I always refer to it as the “summer of thunder”.

TRN Time Machine Podcast: Summer Memories

The TRN Time Machine podcast is back! As a way to honor Jason’s podcasting legacy, we’re re-releasing classic episodes from the original Retro Network Podcast, as well as classic episodes from the early days of the Time Machine podcast. In addition, we’ll be releasing previously restricted episodes of Grocery Stories, Outtakes, and the critically acclaimed TRN After Hours podcast that until now have only been available to Patreon subscribers.

The Patreon-only library has almost 100 episodes that until now have only been heard by a few people. They are packed with so much Jason goodness that we can’t keep these episodes locked away any longer. While Jason may no longer be with us in person, he is still with us in spirit, and releasing these episodes will give everyone a chance to hear more stories and memories from Jason and help keep his memory alive.

If you’ve never done so, be sure to subscribe to the TRN Time Machine podcast in your favorite podcast app so you never miss an episode.

Here is the first release of this new round of Time Machine episodes, featuring a classing from the very early days where Jason and myself rehash old summer memories. Enjoy!

Cookin’ Cheap

Cookin' Cheap

From the late ’80s through the early ’90s, one of my daily rituals in the summertime was to go inside during the hot part of the day and veg out in front of the television and cool off for an hour or two. Back then, I didn’t have many television channels, so there wasn’t much channel surfing to be done. I could watch soap operas on the networks, or watch whatever was on the local PBS station, and boy was I lucky with what my local PBS station, Blue Ridge Public Television, was showing every afternoon.

Blue Ridge Television offered up a block of cooking shows for two hours, followed by Bob Ross. While I didn’t care much for the Julia Child cooking show that started the block, it was followed by Justin Wilson whom I enjoyed, then Yan Can Cook which was also fun, but the last cooking show in that block was my favorite, and one I still watch episodes of today via YouTube, and that show was Cookin’ Cheap. No matter what else was going on in my world on those summer days, I was intent on being inside from 1:30 to 2:00 PM to catch the show.

Cookin’ Cheap was a popular comedy cooking show that was produced from 1980-2002. For most of its run, it was hosted by Laban Johnson and Larry Bly who prepared recipes and shared a lot of laughs. The show was recorded straight through with no stops and no rehearsals so if the guys dropped or burned it, we the viewers got to see it.

In 1980, Laban Johnson, who was already an established cook on local TV came up with an idea for his own television show. He was a funny guy, but fortunately, he realized that much of his humor came from playing off of someone else, so he decided to invite a friend, Larry Bly, on to the show as his sidekick. Larry’s quick wit was already well known in the area, thanks to his radio and TV on-air shenanigans, as he was a local radio DJ.

Laban Johnson (left) and Larry Bly (right) on the set of Cookin’ Cheap in the Blue Ridge Public Television studio in Roanoke VA.

After deciding that the show could work as a comedy cooking show using mostly viewer recipes, it was decided to pitch the show to a local TV station. Shortly after that, a “pilot” was shot, shown to some local potential sponsors, and the rest, as they say, is history.

What made the show great wasn’t the food. The recipes come from viewers, the ingredients from the freezer, cans, and cardboard boxes. In the poor studio light, the dishes, casseroles, meatballs, bean salads, and dips most times ended up looking like glop.

And it wasn’t the culinary skills either. The hosts were amateurs. They struggled to open zip-lock bags and fumble in their oven mitts the way you or I would. Their kitchen would get messy and sometimes dangerous, as they juggled hot trays and employed questionable knife skills while chopping. They puzzled over pronunciations, and spent a lot of time on boring prep work, because, as Larry would confess, if they didn’t, the show would be a lot shorter.

The way that they incorporated more comedy into the show than technique made it feel like they were your neighbors instead of professional cooking show hosts. What I loved most is that it wasn’t just more of that fake Southern thing, which is all around us these days, as Laban and Larry were the real deal. They were both from Roanoke VA where the show was filmed, and just 2 hours up the road from where I lived.

While the show was filmed in Roanoke VA to air on the local Blue Ridge Public Television station, it was so popular that it was picked up and syndicated by other PBS affiliates all around the country. It was the only original program of Blue Ridge Public Television that got syndicated, showing just how good this show was.

More than any other cooking show I’ve seen in my life, Cookin’ Cheap made you feel like you could truly replicate what they were doing in your own kitchen. My mom was a big fan of the show as well, and we would watch it together every afternoon. And we would end up trying a lot of the recipes we saw them cook on the show. And that might be the biggest reason I’m so fond of this show. We would attempt those recipes, and others, together. Both of us in the kitchen at the same time, each creating a dish that we would sit down and share for dinner. Without even acknowledging that we were copying the format we had learned from watching Cookin’ Cheap, we were performing our own version a couple of nights each week.

Laban Johnson passed away suddenly in 1999. Larry Bly tried to keep the show going, bringing in one of Laban’s friends to replace him, but the chemistry wasn’t there, and the experiment only lasted one season and then the show was canceled. It was the end of an era for a show that helped instill in me a love for cooking and helped to create so many great memories of cooking with my mom. If Retro Ramblings had a Hall of Fame, Laban Johnson and Larry Bly would be first-ballot entries for that fact alone.

I’m including this post as part of the Retro Ramblings Summer Vacation ’24 because it was a part of many of the summers of my youth. I wanted to feature one of their videos, and what better one to pick to go along with the summer vacation theme than this episode where they are preparing a couple of cook-out dishes. Check it out and see what you think.

Re-watch: Backdraft (1991)

When Backdraft originally debuted back in 1991, I desperately wanted to see it. As I’ve explained before though, my parents weren’t the movie theater type. And as I was only 13 at the time of its release, I wasn’t going to be going by myself. The closest I got to it was having to hear my brother talk about how great it was after he and his friends saw it. But a year later, it was on HBO and other channels like it all the time so I got to see it finally thanks to the cable descrambler we had. My brother and I probably watched in a dozen time that summer it debuted on PPV and HBO.

It’s about a group of Chicago firefighters on the trail of a serial arsonist who is targeting various victims who are contractors who are connected to each other and a high-ranking city official.

Stephen McCaffrey (Russell) is the Lueinent of Engine Company 17, and his younger brother Brian (Baldwin) is a probationary fireman assigned to the company after graduation from the academy.  The two brothers are the sons of a legendary Chicago firefighter who lost his life battling a blaze while young Brian watched on.  As the movie reveals, the two brothers have never been close, and are at odds with each other more than on the same page.

After several firehouses are shut down due to budget cuts, the arsonist starts taking out the decision-makers behind those cuts by setting deadly “backdraft’ fires to murder them.  Company 17 finds itself as the company that ends up fighting those fires, while Inspector Donald Rimdale (DeNiro) is the one tasked with finding the arsonist behind the attacks.  It all climaxes at a large fire at a chemical plant where the killer is revealed and the McCaffrey brothers must stop him once and for all.  All while battling the huge blaze.

Growing up in the ’80s with a Dad who was the local fire department chief, I was always fascinated by firemen and firefighting in general.  Now while I was never a fireman myself, I do know more about it than most others who were not.  And what you see in Backdraft is pretty close to how things are.  The camaraderie displayed between the firemen in the film feels real and on point.  And the firefighting sequences are top-notch.  The arson investigation is pretty straightforward, but you can’t really guess who is behind it until near the end of the film when everything comes together.  The writers did a pretty good job though of trying to lead you to one conclusion of who the killer is before revealing the true villain.  

Backdraft was a blockbuster in the truest sense of the word, and everything about the movie was well executed.  The story arc of Kurt Russell’s Stephen McCaffrey may be the best thing about the film.  From being the overprotective brother to being the ultimate badass fireman, right through to the final confrontation and climax, Stephen “Bull” McCaffrey was a story well told. Kurt Russell was more than the commander of Engine Company 17…he also carried a commanding presence in his performance.

Backdraft was a blockbuster in its time for a reason and is still a yearly summer re-watch for me even now.  It was a “big” movie with a big cast who were hitting on all cylinders at the time, and it lived up to the hype with its special effects and storytelling.  There’s not much more that you could ask from a movie like this. 

4.0 out of 5.0 stars