6.2/10
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21 user 6 critic

The Missionary (1982)

R | | Comedy | 5 November 1982 (USA)
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1:35 | Trailer

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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.... See full summary »

Director:

Richard Loncraine

Writer:

Michael Palin
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Palin ... The Reverend Charles Fortescue
Maggie Smith ... Lady Isabel Ames
Trevor Howard ... Lord Henry Ames
Denholm Elliott ... The Bishop
Michael Hordern ... Slatterthwaite / Narrator
Graham Crowden ... The Reverend Fitzbanks
David Suchet ... Corbett
Phoebe Nicholls ... Deborah Fitzbanks
Tricia George ... Ada
Valerie Whittington Valerie Whittington ... Emmeline
Roland Culver ... Lord Fermleigh
Rosamund Greenwood Rosamund Greenwood ... Lady Fermleigh
Timothy Spall ... Parswell
Neil Innes Neil Innes ... Singer in Gin Palace
John Barrett ... Old Man outside Hotel
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Storyline

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. Charles hopes Deborah, his fiancee, will object and give him an excuse to say no to the bishop. But she is so imperturbably innocent that she totally fails to understand what he is being asked to do, and urges him to do his best. Wealthy Lady Ames is expected to fund the work, but once she makes it clear to Charles that there will be no contribution unless he shares her bed... Written by James Barrett <jbarrett@sbastk.ess.sunysb.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

He gave his body to save their souls. See more »

Genres:

Comedy

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

Handmade Films Website

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

5 November 1982 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A misszionárius See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,864,852, 7 November 1982, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$7,241,180
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

HandMade Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Director Richard Loncraine has said of this film that it was "one of the happiest films I've ever made". See more »

Quotes

[Attempting to talk her out of a dangerous plan]
Reverend Fortescue: Isabel, I...
Lady Isabel Ames: Please, don't. I don't want to be understood.
[pauses]
Lady Isabel Ames: Not now.
Reverend Fortescue: What are you going to do? What are you going to gain from this?
[Isabel begins to say something, tearfully sighs, and walks out the door]
See more »

Crazy Credits

Pay close attention to the photo album during the end credits, the photos reveal details about the characters after the events of the film. See more »

Connections

References Chariots of Fire (1981) See more »

Soundtracks

Put On Your Ta-Ta Little Girlie
Written and Composed by Fred W. Leigh
Sung by Neil Innes
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Some Background on "The Missionary"
30 March 2005 | by theowinthropSee all my reviews

This is not the funny film it could have been. Given that Palin and Maggie Smith (and Denholm Elliot) were in the very funny "A Private Function" a short time after this film, this is slightly disappointing.

I agree that Michael Hordern's brief appearance as the ultimately lost butler is the movie's finest moment - and I wonder if the germ for this idea was the Monty Python's sketch "The Golden Age of Ballooning", where Graham Chapman, as the butler for the Montgoffier brothers can't recognize what piece of furniture he is supposed to go to, and keeps requesting instructions. Hordern's hopeless invasion of room after room of the immense Ames mansion is quite funny. It was a good moment, but one of too few. Another is the business of Lord Ames (Trevor Howard, sort of spoofing his performance as Lord Cardigan in "The Charge of the Light Brigade") thinking of his favorite words - note how he loves to spell "flog" with two gees.

The film is actually an anachronism of an historical scandal. It is set in the 1906 or so, but actually in 1931 there was such a scandal involving an English clergyman, Reverend Harold Davidson "the Rector of Stiffkey" (pronounced "Stewkey"). He had been leading a mission in the East End of London, and it turned out that for some curious religious motive he had actually had relations with the prostitutes. The Rector was defrocked as a result. Davidson was something of an exhibitionist, and he eventually met an odd fate - he tried to be a lion tamer and was mauled to death. That part of the story is not in this film (probably just as well). But the film still lacks real juice. Fortunately "A Private Function" turned out to have juice. And Palin also had "A Fish Named Wanda" in his future as well.


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