The plot (such as it is) revolves around madman and undersea fan Carl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens, acting very laid back indeed), who plans to blow up the world for no good reason so that we can all live in the sea. Or something.
But that doesn't really matter. What thrills about this film are the set-pieces. From the adrenaline-inducing pre-credits ski chase to the gun battle as the crew of two submarines attempt to take a hollowed-out supertanker from an army of bad guys, the action sequences soar.
Marvin Hamlisch's musical score is also notable for its power and, oddly, its restraint. During the bravura pre-credits sequence he holds with no sound at all for a full 18 seconds - a brave move, and one that emphasises the power of the James Bond theme when it finally kicks in.
The emotional heart of the film is Bond's relationship with Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), his equivalent on the Russian side. Unbeknownst to her, Bond killed her lover - so when she and 007 begin a relationship, we know there's going to be trouble a good hour before they do.
Comic-book sensibility is much to the fore here, with Stromberg's indestructible henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel) surviving drownings, shark attacks, and buildings falling on him with silent grace. Indeed the character proved so popular that he returned two years later in "Moonraker".
"The Spy Who Loved Me" shares nothing with the original Bond novel other than its title. For this reason, the film makers were able to distil the essence of Bond-film as opposed to Bond-book. "Goldfinger" may well have been the template on which the Bond films were based; but it is here that we see its ultimate form.
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