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Off Hollywood

Off Hollywood - Mark Goldblatt

The editor of "Showgirls," "The Punisher," and the Terminator films explains his decisions.

by Jennifer Juniper Stratford
May 1 2012, 4:00am


Terminator (1984), Commando (1985), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Starship Troopers (1997), Showgirls (1995), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

It’s too bad editors don’t seem to catch enough of the spotlight. They certainly deserve it, as editing is an art form crucial to the filmmaking process. The nuance of a cut can create a vital subconscious emotional connection to the viewer, and in an action film, a great cut can make a whole theater cheer in unison.

Mark Goldblatt got his start in the late 70s by walking into the offices of Roger Corman’s New World Pictures and asking the receptionist about getting a job in editing. It didn’t take him long to work up the ladder to become the king of the action film.

VICE: Your IMDb is baffling. You are a rock star of editors!
Mark Goldblatt:
 Thanks! I've always been a frustrated rock and roller.

Do you ever feel like you missed out on seeing so many blockbusters because you cut them?
I’ve seen most of these films at premieres in large venues, filled with people seeing them for the first time. If the films are crowd-pleasers, think how thrilling those first screenings can be, especially if the audience bursts out in applause at the end of an action sequence that you have edited. That's a pretty satisfying experience.

You have also directed a few films, including the 1989 version of The Punisher with Dolph Lundgren. What made you pursue editing over directing in the end?
Although I really enjoyed making these films, my directing efforts were not particularly successful at the box office, and the material I was being offered was not stuff I really wanted to do. I've always loved editing, and people were offering me jobs. I got back into it, doing a film with Clive Barker called Nightbreed.

Early in your career you cut The Terminator, which was a relatively low-budget film. Seven years later you returned to edit the sequel, which had a much bigger budget and featured breakthrough CGI effects. I remember the liquid metal effect really blew people’s minds!
We definitely knew that we had a terrific movie with T2. Our morphing shots were spectacular and just the tip of the iceberg on what was to come from that technology. Visual effects have always been important in cinema, from George Melies's onstage and on-camera illusions, through the great innovations being made by ILM and WETA in the present day.

You worked with Paul Verhoeven on a number of his films, including Starship Troopers, which also featured early advancements in CGI. However, I want to talk about Showgirls. Did you guys know you were working on a cult classic? A lot of it has to do with the choices in editing.
I love Showgirls too. Paul Verhoeven is a brilliant filmmaker. What a lot of people don't get is that Paul's mise-en-scène is incredibly fluid and choreographed. Showgirls is difficult for some audiences because it's so stylized and deals with a particularly sleazy American subculture. I think that the knee-jerk reaction on its initial release was shock. What often happens with Paul's films is that over time audiences begin to comprehend the satire and subversive elements far after their initial viewing. I often think that if Paul had made Showgirls in Holland, and it had been released with subtitles, it would have been proclaimed a masterpiece.

Having cut four Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, do you believe that you had a hand in shaping his career as an action hero?
I would say that I was one part of a team of individuals. Arnold certainly dominates the frame and really owns his films. I just accentuated the really good moments. I especially enjoyed bringing out his innate sense of humor. By the time we got to True Lies, his comedy chops had really developed.

(From The Punisher)

Just so you know, I'm impressed that you cut Wavelength.
You do realize that this isn't Mike Snow's Wavelength, right?  

Yes, I’m talking about the 1983 film where Cherie Curry opens up a telepathic channel to alien children held captive by the government.
The director, Mike Gray, was one of the founders of Chicago Newsreel 1960s agitprop filmmaking collective and went on to write The China Syndrome, which is a very political film to have been made by a major studio. Wavelength was a sort of Area 51 exposé about captured extraterrestrials being experimented on by the military.

Is there any underground or experimental filmmaker who inspired you?
Jordan Belson made quite an impression. Mike Snow. Brakhage. Does Cassavetes count? He continues to be an inspiration for any narrative filmmaker. Also Shirley Clarke was a great maverick filmmaker, and Agnès Varda. Once I drove Jean-Luc Godard around Madison, Wisconsin when he visited there in the 70s.

Godard?! The inventor of the jump cut!
Godard was tremendously influential to many filmmakers. He broke all the rules, and took a very Brechtian approach to cinema. Of course, he was heavily influenced by the Russians, and I see similarities to Dziga Vertov. All the hip young filmmakers in the 60s appropriated Godard's ideas into mainstream filmmaking and advertising.

Wow. Is there anything Godard in True Lies?
I can't consciously think of anything particularly Godardian in True Lies. Maybe some [Sergei] Eisenstein "causeway explosion."

How do you feel about Hollywood trying to do away with 35mm film altogether by the end of 2012?
I think it's somewhat short-sighted. It reminds me of the destruction of so many negatives and prints of silent films and early films that are now forever lost. Digital cinema is here to stay, and digital delivery to theaters is obviously a lot less expensive than film. That said, it is a fact that digital archiving at this point is not the most reliable way to save precious film elements. There is also the argument that 35mm is a format that is really different from digital formats, and that photo-chemical capture is unique. It's really the old debate of art versus commerce. What’s most unfortunate is that the revival houses, specialty cinemas, and cinematheques won't be able to screen 35mm prints if the studios do away with them. It's a really sad situation and I worry about preserving our cinematic heritage.

In a perfect Hollywood, what kinds of films would you like to see in theaters today?
Great stories with political and spiritual relevance played by stars who inspire their audiences; masterfully directed, and of course, brilliantly edited.

Previously - Off Hollywood - David Liebe Hart