The Reverend Charles Fortescue (Michael Palin) returns in 1906 from ten years of service in darkest Africa. The bishop of London (Denholm Elliott) wants him to start a ministry to the prostitutes of Soho. To raise funds for his new mission, Fortescue needs a willing angel and finds her in the wealthy Lady Ames (Maggie Smith). He not only wins her affection but touches the heart of the streetwalkers as he begins meeting their needs — body and soul. Because of his success, Fortescue is soon out on a limb.

Michael Palin, a member of the Monty Python troupe, plays the Angelical clergyman with devilish spunk and subtlety. His screenplay is a rare blend of wit and whimsy. The Missionary boasts a number of very humorous performances including Phoebe Nicholls as Fortescue's dim-witted fiancée; Roland Calver as an old-timer who dies while the enthusiastic priest is explaining his mission; and Michael Hordern as Lady Ames' absent-minded butler. This well-paced and beautifully photographed movie probes the world, the flesh, and the devil in fresh in and funny ways.