The Missionary (1982) torrent download

The Missionary

1982

Comedy

6.2

Synopsis

In 1905, after ten years of missionary work in Africa, the Reverend Charles Fortescue (Sir Michael Palin) is recalled to England, where his Bishop gives him his new assignment, to minister to London's prostitutes. Charles hopes Deborah Fitzbanks (Phoebe Nicholls), his fiancée, 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 Isabel Ames (Dame Maggie Smith) 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. —James Barrett

Director

Richard Loncraine

Cast

Michael Palin
as The Reverend Charles Fortescue
Maggie Smith
as Lady Isabel Ames
Trevor Howard
as Lord Henry Ames
Denholm Elliott
as The Bishop of London
Graham Crowden
as Fitzbanks
Phoebe Nicholls
as Deborah Fitzbanks
Michael Hordern
as Slatterthewaite

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by johnjredington 8 /10

Wacky but doesn't grate

Unlike American films where situation and reaction are usually the dominant elements of comedy, English cinema has a tendency to rely on outrageous or eccentric characterisation. It usually works well on a detailed level with typical stock characters such as irascible colonels, domineering great-aunts and frightfully keen twits but, quite often, individual actors get so caught up in their own characters that the film as a whole loses its sense of coherence.

The Missionary is a very traditional English comedy with the usual over-the-top collection of the innocent, the incompetent, the mad, the prim and proper and the sex-starved but, in this case, the characters lock well into each other like a jigsaw. Maybe it is due to a certain respect that stars like Maggie Smith, Michael Palin and Trevor Howard had for each other as they try to complement rather than overshadow each others' performances.

Once you find the pitch of the humour, this is a gem of a comedy and worth seeing alone for the batty directionally-challenged butler played by Michael Hordern.

Reviewed by dafishhead N/A

Not so funny as it is charming

I won't detail the plot as that's been covered rather extensively in the other comments. If you refrain from expecting a Monty Python movie, you'll find it much easier to enjoy The Missionary. It's not a Python movie. It's not outrageously funny though it does have some very funny moments, some hilarious. Most of the humor however is much more subtle, possibly too much so for many viewers. A great cast.

Reviewed by JamesHitchcock 10 /10

Missionary Position

To celebrate my 500th review for IMDb, I turn to another of my favourite films. The Reverend Charles Fortescue is an Edwardian clergyman who has spent ten years working as a missionary in Africa. He returns to England and is asked by the Bishop of London to run a Mission to Fallen Women in the East End. Fortescue sets about his new task with vigour, supported by a generous donation from the wealthy Lady Ames, and the Mission proves a great success. Suspicions begin to grow, however, that Fortescue is offering the young women of the Mission something more than spiritual comfort, and that Lady Ames's interest in his work is motivated by something other than philanthropic zeal.

This is one of a number of films made by the former Pythons since their partnership came to an end; Michael Palin not only wrote the script but also appears as Fortescue. Several of these films show the clear influence of the famous Ealing comedies, and it is obvious that some at least of the Pythons must have a deep admiration for that series, even though the style of their early comedy was very different. "A Fish Called Wanda", which starred Palin and John Cleese, was directed by the Ealing veteran Charles Crichton, and there are clear thematic links between "A Private Function" (Palin again) and "Passport to Pimlico" and between "Splitting Heirs" (Cleese and Eric Idle) and "Kind Hearts and Coronets".

Like "Kind Hearts…..", "The Missionary" is set among the Edwardian upper classes. It does not have any direct thematic links to any of the Ealing films, but does have a similar style of humour, updated to suit the changing tastes of the eighties. Jokes about sex, for example, can be much more direct than would have been possible in the forties or fifties. This is not, however, a simple satire on Edwardian attitudes to sex and religion. It is a very different film to the ghastly "Best House in London", which was set in the Victorian period and took the line that prostitution is all jolly good rollicking fun.

"The Missionary", in fact, is a comedy about sex which (unlike most British comedies on that subject) avoids smuttiness and a comedy about religion which avoids the standard line that religious believers are all either fools or hypocrites. Although there is some fun at the expense of the Bishop, the film does capture the ethos of Edwardian "Muscular Christianity" with its progressive social attitudes and emphasis on good works. Prostitution is shown as a social evil because it leads to the exploitation and degradation of working-class women, and the Church's opposition to it is seen as both morally justified and socially progressive.

Palin plays Fortescue as a mixture of ardent social reformer and holy innocent, a kindly, well-intentioned man whose good intentions reflect many of the assumptions of his age. (He assumes, for example, that the African children he is teaching need to know all about English mediaeval history). He ends up sleeping with the young women of the Mission almost by accident- they all fall in love with him because he is the only man who has ever shown them kindness or has treated them as anything other than sex objects. Fortescue is not, however, the most comic character in the film; indeed, for much of the time he appears to be playing straight man to the others, who all have their own eccentricities. There is the aristocratic nymphomaniac Lady Ames and her ferociously reactionary husband, played by Trevor Howard as the comic equivalent of his Lord Cardigan in "The Charge of the Light Brigade". (The use of the hymn "From Greenland's Icy Mountains" provides another link between the two films). There is their comically inept butler Slatterthwaite, forever unable to navigate his way round their palatial stately home.

Denholm Elliott plays the Bishop as hearty and obsessed with sport, especially boxing and cricket. I first saw "The Missionary" in the cinema with two college friends and we were amused by the resemblance of the Bishop to one of our lecturers, who also peppered his conversation with cricketing clichés like "batting on a sticky wicket". Elliott and Maggie Smith, who plays Lady Ames, were later to star with Palin in "A Private Function". My favourite performance, however, came from the lovely Phoebe Nicholls as Fortescue's terminally naïve fiancée Deborah, totally unable to understand the concept of "fallen women". ("Women who have hurt their knees?"). She also has a passion for neatness and order and has devised a fantastically intricate filing system for keeping track of her fiancé's love-letters.

Palin had already proved himself to be a great comedian; in "The Missionary" and "A Private Function" he also proved himself a great comic actor, just as Cleese had done in "Fawlty Towers". The two things are not necessarily the same; there are several British comedians- Dudley Moore being a good example- who never seemed as funny on the big screen as they did in their stage and TV routines. Palin was later also to prove himself a very good serious actor in "American Friends", another film in which he plays a likable Anglican clergyman. It is interesting that he should have twice given a sympathetic portrayal of men of the cloth- perhaps the Pythons were not all as anti-religious as those who criticised them for their "Life of Brian" assumed.

Besides some wonderful performances, "The Missionary" also has some great lines and together with "A Private Function" it is the best of the post-Python comedies and one of the funniest British films of the eighties. 10/10.

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