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A smash cut is a technique in film and other moving picture media where one scene abruptly cuts to another for aesthetic, narrative, or emotional purpose. To this end, the smash cut usually occurs at a crucial moment in a scene where a cut would not be expected. To heighten the impact of the cut, a disparity in the type of scene on either side of the cut is often present, going from a fast-paced frenzied scene to a tranquil one, or going from a pleasant scene to a tense one, for example.
A clichéd use of a smash cut is in a murder scene: the killer brings a knife plunging down into his victim, and just before the blade pierces the skin, the scene is suddenly replaced with a non-violent use of a cutting edge, such as the chopping of vegetables. Smash cuts are often used when a character wakes up from a nightmare to simulate the jarring nature of that experience.
Smash cutting can also be used to comedic effect: for example, directly after a prediction is made, cutting to the future showing the prediction to have been humorously, and often outlandishly, wrong. One specific variety of smash cut is known in the United States as a Gilligan cut, so named for the TV show Gilligan's Island which frequently depicted a given character resolutely declaring his or her intentions immediately before a cut to a scene depicting the character doing the exact opposite. This variety is known as a Bicycle cut, so named for a scene from Last of the Summer Wine.