The Missionary [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (21st August 2019).
The Film

Monty Python alumnus Michael Palin writes and stars in this ribald comedy of sex and sensibility. Timid Reverend Charles Fortescue returns to London in 1906 after ten years of service in Africa to start a mission to save the fallen women of Soho. But his dedication to tending to the needs of those in his care soon meets with the disapproval of the church and his patron.

Directed by Richard Loncraine (Richard III, Bellman & True), The Missionary is a charming and beautifully detailed comedy which boasts a superb supporting cast that includes Maggie Smith, Trevor Howard, Denholm Elliott, Michael Hordern, Graham Crowden and Neil Innes.

This world Blu-ray premiere edition boasts a stunning new 2K restoration from the original negatives, supervised and approved by cinematographer Peter Hannan and director Richard Loncraine, finally enabling the film to be seen in its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio for the first time ever on any home video format.

Video

Thoroughly entertaining if slight comedy from writer-star Michael Palin and director Richard Loncraine gets the deluxe treatment and a new restoration from Powerhouse films.

All prior home video editions of this film have been compromised in one way or another. It was shot in J-D-C Scope with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with those wide compositions being cleaved by 40% in the era when TVs were 1.33:1 and still cropped to 1.78:1 in the for widescreen tellies. Powerhouse Films and Handmade Films have gone back to the original camera negative with a 4K scan supervised by Loncraine and cinematographer Peter Hannan.

This is an exquisitely shot film with a rich, warm colour palette emphasising reds, browns and blacks. Shadow detail is excellent despite the consistent and heavy grain field and the slightly diffused appearance of the film overall. This looks exactly as I would expect and probably hasn't looked this good even on it's first theatrical run.

Contrast allows a nice range in the colours and I saw no signs of blown out highlights. As I said grain is naturally heavy throughout and has been expertly handled by the top notch encoding job from Fidelity in Motion. Apart from the odd moment where opticals are involved (credits, scene changes etc) this is a pleasingly sharp transfer.

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 2.35:1 / 86:18

Audio

English LPCM 1.0
Subtitles: English HoH

The standard mono track has been nicely rendered in this lossless presentation with plenty of range considering that it's not stereo. Treble and base are in nice balance and there's no distortions. Dialogue is always clear and and score has presence. Another excellent set of subtitles also makes this release accessible to those with hearing issues.

Extras

2002 Audio commentary with writer / star Michael Palin (2002)
2019 Audio commentary with director Richard Loncraine and historian Sam Dunn


The vintage Anchor Bay UK commentary and a spanking new director-moderator track. Both are very listenable and filled with bags of trivia about the production, information on it's production and warm reminiscences. Loncraine is especially filled with detail and joyful memories.

"Compulsively Entertaining: Michael Palin and Maggie Smith on The Missionary" featurette (37:35)
"A Good Collar: Shuna Harwood on The Missionary" featurette (7:56)
"A Very British Sound: Mike Moran on The Missionary" featurette (7:33)
"Playing the Part: Kenneth Linlott on The Missionary" featurette (3:42)
"Snapshots of Sound: Tony Jackson on The Missionary" featurette (10:29)
"A Stiff Old Fashioned: Rob Deering on The Missionary" featurette (22:27)


A brand spanking new collection of interview featurettes that effectively join forces with the two excellent commentaries to make a stunning retrospective "making of" documentary. Practically all key bases are touched on here with director Loncraine giving his side of things in the yaktrak with Sam Dunn. Comedian Deering offers up an incisive appreciation of the film.

Deleted Scenes (mute with subtitles except for one brief exchange) (Play All - 6:25):
- "The Scale of the Problem" (2:38)
- "A Most Generous Man" (3:47)


A clutch of scenes dropped from the final cut; nothing essential and the audio is missing so subtitles have been provided with the exception of a short bit that couldn't he found in the script. Quality is on a par with the transfer of the film itself and it full 2.35:1.

Theatrical trailer (1:38)

Scope format trailer is expertly crafted to emphasise the comic aspects.

The Missionary Image gallery: Original Promotional Material (21 images)

Modest but decent still gallery in HD.

40-page liner notes booklet with a new essay by John Oliver, extracts from Michael Palinís diaries on the filmís location shooting, archival interviews with Palin, an overview of contemporary critical responses, archival articles, and film credits

The usual comprehensive contextual booklet covers all the desired bases one could wish for in a single film package. If you've read any of the previous Indicator booklets you'll know what to expect; worth the price of the disc by the selves.

Overall

A dazzling restoration for a film that has never had a full aspect ratio home video release; all prior DVDs have been cropped to approximately 1.78:1. Seen in it's full Scope ratio one can appreciate the compositions much better and it looks and sounds a peach; very definitely one of the discs of the year and a film in dire need of a proper release. Extras are superb and fulsome; a knockout and Powerhouse Films continue to bat these Indicator releases out of the park, over the hill and onto the next continent!

The Film: B+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A+

 


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