I’m not one to get excited over old Hollywood memorabilia, but when it’s horror-movie memorabilia, I’m out the door in a heartbeat. Such was the case when I heard the prop head for the 1931 film Frankenstein was in the hands of Robert Thorn, a local tattooer, artist, horror enthusiast and drummer who owns the Fountain Valley-based retailer Funeral Classics. The prop head—used by movie-makeup pioneer Jack Pierce—does not reside at the store (it’s safe in preservation), but Thorn is a friendly presence whom you can ask all about it.
As he tells me, the head and a prop hand used by movie-makeup pioneer Jack Pierce have been in Thorn’s family for generations, ever since his grandfather scooped them up at a Hollywood Hills yard sale decades ago. So for the Huntington Beach native who lives and breathes the spooky life, from his 1964 Cadillac Eureka hearse to his artwork, that love for horror cinema came naturally, if not embedded in his DNA. He loves the classics, from Universal’s monster flicks to John Carpenter fare, and is inspired by the imagery and atmosphere. “I also like that some films leave your information to paint in what you, as a viewer, don’t see,” he says.
Opening his store in 2013, Thorn incorporated that same spooky atmosphere as well as “the many aspects of death, all being positive.” Coffin-shaped shelving units carry shirts, tanks and hoodies from his clothing brand, designed with his macabre art, in sizes and styles available for men, women and babies. The backroom houses obscure horror-movie collectibles, autographed headshots of Cassandra Peterson (Elvira, Mistress of the Dark) and Butch Patrick as Eddie Munster, toys, novelty records, vinyl albums, VHS tapes, back issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland, and other covetable items for horror fans of all ages.
Definitely make a stop to this Fountain (Death) Valley joint, but to see the Frankenstein prop head for yourself, you’ll have to catch Thorn at one of his convention appearances. Despite it being appraised as valuable, Thorn won’t sell—unless the buyer agrees to his terms to display it occasionally and lend it for museum exhibits.
Honoring his hero Pierce, any sale Thorn makes selling the props will go toward scholarship funds for low-income youths hoping to go to movie-makeup school. #Respect!
Funeral Classics, 8574 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley. Instagram: @FuneralClassics13.
Aimee Murillo is calendar editor and frequently covers film and previously contributed to the OCW’s long-running fashion column, Trendzilla. Don’t ask her what her favorite movie is unless you want to hear her lengthy defense of Showgirls.