The Missionary (Umbrella Ent) (1982)

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Released 29-May-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 82:10
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Richard Loncraine

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Michael Palin
Maggie Smith
Trevor Howard
Denholm Elliott
Michael Hordern
Graham Crowden
David Suchet
Phoebe Nicholls
Tricia George
Valerie Whittington
Roland Culver
Rosamund Greenwood
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Mike Moran

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Oh to have the wherewithal of a Beatle. To be able to indulge in all manner of philanthropy. To have the means to shower cash upon your favourite comedians when their television endeavours wind up, financing every silly movie they want to make as was the case with George Harrison's Handmade Films. Handmade Films backed some crackers (including Life of Brian), some duds (Shanghai Surprise, anyone?) and plenty in between. The Missionary was one of those in-betweeners, that has sat in relative obscurity since its release.

    Written by and starring Michael Palin in the titular role, The Missionary is the story of a Church of England preacher who is recalled from ten years in Africa, at the turn of the 20th century, to administer to London's fallen women, in-between planning for his impending marriage to his childhood sweetheart and being romantically chased by the trophy wife (Maggie Smith) of his near-senile patron. Stylistically, the film aims for the feel of the Ealing comedies from the 1940s and 1950s rather than Monty Python. It is an amusing enough idea on paper, but sadly that's about the sum of it. The story is a little too disjointed, held together by a far-reaching monologue between the various parts of the film, and many of the gags are a lot funnier in concept than execution. That said most of the gags have aged reasonably well and there are a few moments of genuine belly-laughs to be had, though this is certainly a movie that will be forgotten not long after viewing.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, cropped from an original ratio of 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. The cropping is particularly noticeable in one or two scenes, but for the most part does not appear to substantially detract from the viewing experience. The opening and closing scenes of the film maintain the original aspect ratio, which gives a good feel for how much is lost by the cropping.

    The video is essentially a decent transfer of a noticeably aged print. The image is reasonably sharp and clear, however the colour in the image has a distinct yellowish-brown tinge, there is a moderate level of grain noticeable in the image and there is a significant increase in white dust specks on the print at what are obviously the start and end points of the reels. There is a reasonable level of detail in shadows and dark areas.

    Mild pixelation is noticeable in the background of the image. There are no large film artefacts noticeable in the video, only the aforementioned fine dust particles throughout. There is no sign of aliasing or other particularly distracting video nasties.

    This is a single layered disc, so no layer change occurs during playback.

    There are no subtitles for the film.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    A single English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kbps) audio track is present.

    A moderate hiss of background white noise is noticeable throughout the film. The background noise increases noticeably around the times the video sees noticeable increases in dust. The mix is a little muddy, though the dialogue is reasonably easy to understand and is well synchronised to the video.

    The film features an appropriate orchestral score that harks back to the style of the Ealing comedies from the 1940s and 1950s. Alas the score shows up the tinniness of the soundtrack.

    The is no surround speaker or subwoofer usage at all. In fact, the audio barely even sounds like it is in stereo.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Nothing. This disc does not even feature a menu, diving straight into the feature when the disc is popped in and looping back to the start of the film when it finishes.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 edition of the film is a bare-bones pan and scan effort.

    The clear winner internationally is the UK Region 2 edition of the film, which offers the same video transfer as the Region 4 edition and includes Audio commentary with actor Michael Palin, an Interview with director Richard Loncraine and a Photo gallery.


    A mildly amusing, though entirely forgettable, period comedy from ex-Monty Python member Michael Palin.

    The video and audio are fair. Certainly not unwatchable, but far from clean and crisp. The disc is as bare-bones as they can come - not even a token menu to click.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
Display Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, 100W centre and 4 surround/rear speakers, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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