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United Kingdom 1982
Directed by
Richard Loncraine
82 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Missionary

The first half or so of this Michael Palin-scripted film provide as good as an example of genial spoofing of the late-Victorian English class system as you would want. Denholm Elliott plays a sports-mad bishop, Trevor Howard a blustery, bombastic country squire and Maggie Smith his randy wife, Michael Horden (who also serves as the narrator) an absent-minded butler and Palin himself, a mild-mannered Church of England minister, Charles Fortescue, returned from 10 years missionary work in Africa to wed his childhood sweetheart (Phoebe Nicholls) who has a passion for filing.

Setting the story up is a lot of fun but when the bishop assigns Fortescue the job of setting up a shelter for East End prostitutes, one cannot help but fear that the tenor of the film is about to take a turn for the worse.  Indeed, it does just that. One might see the film as symptomatic of the prurient vein of English humour, not to mention blithely skating over the medically-dubious practice of having unprotected sex with street prostitutes but, even worse, it simply is not funny and what had been an enjoyably well-crafted comedy with droll characterizations degenerates into a silly farce that deserves the tag of  'an opportunity missed'.

DVD Extras: None

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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