Those guys on "How I Met Your Mother" sure know their Canadian film history. I thought I was the last diehard fan of the "McElroy and LeFleur" movies, which I have saved on VHS because those low-budget 1999 DVDs did not get the rights to Trooper's original version of the "McElroy and LeFleur" theme and instead substituted a much less compelling rendition by Ontario session musicians. I admit they're not all great, especially the fifth and sixth ones. And the TV series was just silly. How could anyone but Jeff Wincott (seen left, in "McElroy and LeFleur 3") have plausibly played McElroy? I know, Clark Johnson (below right, in the original "M&L") was still the best LeFleur, too, but that part became more and more irrelevant to the movies.
But I am getting ahead of myself...
"McElroy and LeFleur" began in the late '80s when Wincott was getting some buzz from "Night Heat" and Atlantis Releasing thought they could build an action franchise around him and use it to make inroads into the U.S. market. (LeFleur was originally called LaFleur but Atlantis marketing reps thought that "too girly" for U.S. audiences.)
The early outlines referred to it as "Laurel and Hardy with Uzis," indicating a comic content that also anticipated "Lethal Weapon," although the actual movies proved to be more on the level of "Tango and Cash." Wincott, of course, was the young rebel and the "grizzled" veteran was Johnson, who at that point was known mainly for a recurring role as a slick TV guy on "E.N.G." and was ready for something grittier. Of course, he was too young for the part, but a little whitener in the hair and his trademark mutter were enough for the studio. It's a shame that his catchphrase, "I'm getting tired of this crap," never quite caught on in spite of repeated use in "M&L 1" and was dropped in the second movie where Wincott began using HIS catchphrase, "I'll drop you like a bad Hab ... it." (Check out the YouTube collection of the line; it's right up there with the David Caruso video.)
Anyway, the first movie had a vaguely coherent plot about a Montreal drug lord, lots of fight scenes and enough nudity to become a staple at Canadian cinemas upon release in late '89 and later on CanadaMax After Dark. It made real money and Wincott and Johnson were brought back for "McElroy and LeFleur: Deux/South" (1991), which found the team traveling to New York (played by Toronto) in pursuit of a Mountie turned hitman who also happened to be McElroy's old partner. Another hit, not least because it showcased a Canadian actress then named Denise Anderson, later known under her first name, Pamela. Playing McElroy's girlfriend, she gained such a following that she would have been brought back for the third movie had her character not been killed near the end of "M&L 2."
By the time that work began on the third film, big changes had to be made. The premise had been set by Anderson's death in the second; the third was supposed to be McElroy's search for her killers and revenge. But at this point Johnson saw himself increasingly as a second fiddle, so he ankled the series -- and Canada -- for a regular role on "Homicide: Life on the Street." The third film accordingly focused on McElroy solo, as was implied in the title, "McElroy and LeFleur 3: The Lone Ranger and Toronto." While McElroy was in Toronto seeking vengeance, LeFleur was acknowledged by being unheard on the other end of phone calls from McElroy.
And still, the movie made money, though not as much as "M&L 2," so the studio began looking for a new LeFleur to pair with Wincott. After one of those famous "nationwide talent searches," the company announced that rapper Maestro would join the series for the fourth film as the previously unmentioned son of the original LeFleur; Johnson's character was said to have retired, only to die in a bizarre ice-fishing accident which his son, Maestro LeFleur, was convinced was murder. He joined the force to find the killer and was paired up with McElroy for "McElroy and LeFleur 4: Sang/Song," which translated roughly as "Blood/Song." The musical reference was meant to plug not only Maestro's galvanizing a club full of hostile Quebecois with his rap hit "Got My Gun on You," but a cameo by '80s star Robin Sparkles, who was talked up as a possible love interest for Maestro in "M&L 5." It was the biggest hit since the first movie.
But Wincott said he was done with "McElroy." (Canadian tabs claimed he was jealous over the attention Maestro received, though Wincott denied it.) Atlantis, still sensing a cash cow ready for milking, announced that it would recast both roles and begin production on "McElroy & LeFleur: The Series." Casting two unknowns as the leads, the show hired Tommy Chong to provide star power as "a colorful informant." Promising "movie action on a TV budget," the company made a deal for 13 episodes to air first on CBC and later on WGN. But CBC yanked the show after three little-seen episodes (of six completed), although diehard "M&L" fans still keep promoting online petitions to have all six shows released on DVD. Rumor has it that an embarrassed Chong, who later claimed to have done the series just to cover some legal fees, is blocking the release.
With the series' failure, the studio went begging to Wincott, offering a major payday and an executive-producer credit for "M&L 5" and maybe 6. Wincott agreed, with the understanding that these would no longer be buddy movies, but "a look deep into the soul of a troubled ex-Mountie." Meaning his character. The LeFleur of the fifth movie was the 5-year-old son of Maestro, who had died on an undercover mission spying on Alaskan smugglers and had left his child to McElroy in his will. Abel Ferrara is said to be a huge fan of the resulting "McElroy and LeFleur 5: My Gun is Child-Proofed." And the folks at the "We Love D Movies" blog have rated the scene where the kid blows away a hatchet-wielding religious-cultist moments before he can kill McElroy as "9 1/2 on the Explodo-Meter." A sixth film seemed inevitable ... but I have taken this April Fool's Day joke about as far as I can.