Blood in the Face
By Joe Leydon

June 29, 1991 |  Early in the remarkable documentary Blood in the Face, one of the interview subjects calmly explains his game for a better, more wholesome, less mongrelized America: "Basically, shooting on sight everyone we think isn't white."

But the cleanup campaign won't stop there. No, not by a long shot. After the non-whites, the non-Christians will be the next to go.

And, mind you, most of the people interviewed in Blood in the Face have established very rigorous criteria to decide just who is and who isn't a

''We would define Jerry Falwell as a Jew,'' says one disarmingly calm but stern-faced knight in shining polyester, ''because he believes in Israel.''

Welcome to America's dark side, where racists, Nazis, ultra-rightists and paranoid paramilitarists give full vent to their hateful rantings. Filmmakers Anne Bohlen, Kevin Rafferty and James Ridgeway spent a good portion of the late 1980s with their cameras and microphones trained on the ominous growth of radical-right organizations in America. Blood in the Face is the distillation of their extensive research and often chilling interviews. The film does not pass judgment, does not take sides. Rather, it allows its subjects to speak for themselves, to reveal the full scope of their xenophobic fury through their own words.

Blood in the Face sounds like the title of a horror movie, which it is. But here, the monsters wear sheets and swastikas. And, unfortunately, they don't disappear at dawn's first light.

Most of the film focuses on a gathering in Cohoctah, Mich., where members of the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party, Posse Comitatus, Aryan Nation and assorted other fringe groups enjoyed picnics, ultra-patriotic speeches, displays of weapons and racist literature, and -- no kidding -- the wedding of a Klansman and a Klanswoman, complete with burning cross. Michael Moore, of Roger & Me fame, conducts a few of the interviews, and can barely conceal his mockery. Speaking to a beautiful blond woman with a swastika on her arm, he notes: ''You don't look like a Nazi… you look more like a Coppertone girl.''

Most of the time, though, Blood in the Face is dead serious, and quietly terrifying. The radical-right activists openly discuss their plans to develop home video networks that will spread their racist ideology, and to attract greater numbers of white, red-blood Americans with a philosophy that is ''more Nazi than the Nazis.'' No one interviewed in the film appears to have the slightest doubt that his cause is just, that history is on his side. Eventually, the day of Armageddon will come, and white Christians will liberate the United States from the forces of Z.O.G. (Zionist Occupation Government).

Blood in the Face offers a bit of historical context with news footage of the late George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party. (''I'm St. Paul to Hitler's Christ!'') And the film makes a strong case in its efforts to link the political rise of Louisiana's David Duke with the growth of radical-right extremist groups.

But Blood in the Face is most powerful when it simply allows the subjects in Cohoctah, Mich., to speak their piece. The extremists clearly enjoy the publicity: ''We're using you to spread our word,'' one Klansman boasts to an off-screen interviewer. Even as he speaks, however, the camera is shedding light on all the darkness he represents.