Cool Million: Mask Of Marcella (1972) January 28, 2021 19:06
In the world of cult cinema sometimes the discovery is more satisfying than the consumption, and stumbling upon something featuring one of your favorite actresses that you never knew existed is the cherry on top! Cool Million was a short lived television series that recently popped onto my radar, magically appearing on Barbara Bouchet's IMDb page where it had previously never been. Even more surprising is how turned out to be pretty good.
Cool Million aired on NBC during their Wednesday Night Movie Mystery production slate in 1972. It starred James Farentino as private investigator Jefferson Keyes who catered to wealthy clients with a set fee of one million dollars. The series failed to garner the desired ratings and was ultimately scraped after five episodes.
The introductory episode, Mask Of Marcella, follows Keyes as he searches for the sole heir of a recently deceased, possibly murdered, tycoon named Raymond Pascal whose dying words were for his daughter Marcella. Problem was to the best of anyone's knowledge Marcella had been missing for thirteen years. In his will Pascal deemed that all his wealth would go to his daughter, and if she were not present to claim the funds then it would be distributed to various charities. This news came as a shock to his arm candy "secretary" Carla Miles (Barbara Bouchet), who claimed to have recently married Pascal, and the general manager of his resort who had conveniently been one of the sole witnesses to said marriage.
Keyes becomes involved when a former teacher from the school where Marcella went missing reaches out to him. He claimed to have spotted her with an older man having a meal at the restaurant he was now employed at. Hoping to clear his reputation, as he was the person in charge the night she went missing, he implores Keyes to take up the case, ensuring he'll be substantially rewarded by the estate if he were to locate her. Keyes flies to Athens and comes to an agreement with the executor of the estate, if he can locate Marcella before the probate hearing in a week he'll be paid his one million dollar fee. With that wrapped up he proceeds to the scene of the "accident", Pacal's resort Club International, where he's quickly greeted with some stiff opposition from the management and the lovely Carla Miles who are planning to contest the will.
Things start to heat up quickly when they learn that Keyes has been hired to look for the missing daughter. It becomes evidently clear they have something to hide and Keyes finds wooing Miles to be a good insurance policy, as the game of cat and mouse runs deeper the more he investigates, spanning multiple countries and shady individuals all possibly linked to an even larger plot.
For a very short lived series I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed the premiere episode. At a runtime of over an hour and a half long (without commercials) it's essentially a stand alone made for TV film. While the story is pretty campy, it was one of the better comparable American productions to what is internationally referred to the euro-spy film genre. With a fair amount of twists and turns, many predictable and a few not so much, Mask Of Marcella managed to not only keep my attention but be fairly enjoyable.
Barbara Bouchet plays a familiar supporting character, a beautiful and mysterious woman whose loyalties are constantly questionable. While it's far from a unique role for her the long format of the episode lends her a longer screen time than previously seen in other American productions. Overall, Mask Of Marcella is an entertaining diversion, the series likely failed because it was a little ahead of it's time with its long running film style format, or possibly the writers simply ran out of ideas and maybe the followup episodes, which were also over an hour in length as well, became too repetitious. Either way if you're looking for an obscure Barbara Bouchet appearance, or an Americanized style euro-spy outing this may be worth looking into.