The Missionary (1982)    0 Stars

“When you have a fiancée, a lover and you have to lead 25 women of the night down the path of righteousness.; you must pray for more than guidance, you must pray for strength.”

The Missionary (1982)
The Missionary (1982)


Director: Richard Loncraine

Cast: Michael Palin, Maggie Smith, Trevor Howard

Synopsis: In 1905, after 10 years of missionary work in Africa, the Rev. Charles Fortesque is recalled to England, where his bishop gives him his new assignment – to minister to London’s prostitutes….





`We want you to find out why they do what they do, and stop them doing it.’ So says the Bishop of London (Denholm Elliott – The Boys from Brazil, Raiders of the Lost Ark) to missionary Charles Fortescue (Michael Palin – Life of Brian), referring to the multitude of ‘fallen women’ walking the streets of turn of the (20th) Century London in Richard Loncraine’s lukewarm comedy The Missionary. It’s a task which the naïve Fortescue undertakes with questionable zeal in this very mild comedy that rarely manages to hit the funny bone. In fact, that isn’t really the main strand of the plot, although most synopses will lead you to believe otherwise; the main strand concerns the unlikely love of Lady Ames (Maggie Smith – Curtain Call) for the gauche missionary – a story that is neither anywhere near as risqué or interesting as the touted plotline.

Apart from the short time that Michael Hordern (Royal Flash, Gandhi) is on screen, Palin’s leisurely paced comedy rarely rises above mediocre. In fact Hordern, as Lady Ames’ perpetually lost butler is the best thing about The Misiionary, and his first scene, in which he leads Palin through a succession of corridors before ending up in a storage cupboard and admitting he is lost, is a classic. Unfortunately, Hordern is only on screen for maybe ten minutes – not enough to make The Missionary the enjoyable comedy it could have been.

(Reviewed 13th May 2002)

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