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Smooth Criminal is a ten-minute long clip in which Jackson dances through a 1940s-style nightclub. The version is reminiscent of the musical number known as "The Girl Hunt Ballet" which is featured as the final number in the 1952 musical film The Band Wagon.
Other versions include the Sped Up/Moonwalker Credits Version which is commonly shown on music video stations and appears during the end credits for Moonwalker. It is essentially the video sped up, with an added blur effect, and some alternate angles. The Album Version is the regular version of the video edited to be in sync with the original album version of the song. It excludes the added lyric, the middle section along with various other moments.
The effect in the video when Jackson and the dancers lean forward a seemingly impossible distance was achieved using special harnesses with wires, and magnets.
Smooth Criminal features the band performing inside a boxing ring and a front lawn. There are references to Michael Jackson and his videos:
When the band members do the video's choreographed lean.
Various objects and sidewalk panels lighting up and an editing technique utilizing several split screens and freeze frames mirrors a similar sequence in "Billie Jean."
Lead singer Dryden Mitchell stands on a car and screams while its windows explode is taken from the controversial ending of the video for "Black or White".
Several references are made to "Thriller", including the dance by the old men, the werewolf mask worn by the girl jumping into the pool, and the end of the video where a man turns to the camera with cat's eyes.
The chimpanzee is a reference to Michael Jackson's pet chimp Bubbles. In addition to that, the chair Mitchell is sitting on during the scenes with the chimp is shaped like a gloved hand.
The Japanese school girls in uniforms holding the sign reading "We love AAF" is a reference to Michael Jackson's idol status in Japan.
Lead singer Mitchell rips a ventilation shaft grill from the ground, releasing steam.
Michael Jackson-like vocalizations can be heard, including a high-pitched "Whoo!" several times in a row.
The lead singer Mitchell pulls up his pants to expose his socks, much like Michael Jackson.
Drummer Mike Cosgrove wears one white studded glove.
Bobby Edner performs a dance similar to the dance moves of Michael Jackson. He wears an E.T. shirt, a reference to the *E.T. storybook album narrated by Jackson. In an alternate version of the video, he is wearing a surgeon's mask, as Jackson often does in public.
One man has a tattoo of Elizabeth Taylor on his back. In 1989, Taylor proclaimed Jackson as the King of Pop.