In his first substantial feature-film role away from the involvement of his Monty Python cohorts, Michael Palin stars as a 19th-century missionary tasked with setting up a mission for fallen prostitutes. He soon discovers that although the wealthy Lady Ames (Maggie Smith) is lined up as a financial backer, her patronage comes with strings attached...
While making Time Bandits, Handmade Films executive producers Denis O'Brien and George Harrison asked Michael Palin to conceive of a movie idea of his own choosing. The Missionary was the result.
The film features actual locations including Longleat House in Wiltshire; Dorney Court; Highclere Castle in Hampshire; and Ardverikie House in Scotland.
Reportedly, actor Michael Hordern lost his way in the labyrinthine passages of Wiltshire's Longleat, an action fitting of his absent-minded character Slatterthwaite. Director Richard Loncraine has said of this film that it was "one of the happiest films I've ever made".