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This dreamy, quirky film, directed by Sir Carol Reed (The Third Man), combines elements of British "kitchen sink" realism with Fellini-esque fantasy and the Jewish fables of Isaac Bashevis Singer. A spunky little boy, Joe, lives with his mother in old Mr. Kandinsky's tailor shop in the midst of a bustling London bazaar a few years after the Blitz. Kandinsky fills Joe's head with stories of the magical power of unicorns and their ability to grant wishes. Eager to help his extended family attain their dreams, Joe buys a unicorn--actually a one-horned baby goat--from a vagrant. For himself and his mother, Joe requests his father's return from South Africa; for neighborhood beauty Sonia (Diana Dors, "the English Marilyn Monroe"), he wishes an engagement ring. Joe also wishes for Sonia's boyfriend, Body Beautiful magazine cover boy Sam, to beat the evil giant Python Macklin (Primo Carnera, a.k.a. "the Ambling Alp") at wrestling, and for Kandinsky to get a steam presser. The story is sweet but the movie has overtones both serious and surreal: discordant jazz plays on the soundtrack and Joe's pets keep dying on him. The tale Kandinsky tells Joe about how unicorns became extinct is an obvious metaphor for the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis. Joe's neighborhood is a true cultural melting pot: one doesn't see many 1950s British movies with settings like this. The film might have been too eccentric to become a family staple, but it's quite fascinating today.

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